Poll Shows Growing Opposition Despite Plum Creek Media Campaign
AUGUSTA, MAINE – A new public opinion poll reveals that Maine people by a growing and overwhelming margin oppose Plum Creek’s proposed development for the Moosehead Lake region. The survey results are striking because they come after Plum Creek Real Estate Investment Trust has funded a barrage of advertisements over the past seven months urging Mainers to support Plum Creek’s plan.
Conducted October 4-12, 2006 by Critical Insights of Portland, Maine, the poll shows that 50% of Maine people consider Plum Creek’s plan a “bad idea” compared with only 27% who believe it is a “good idea.” This is an increase over an identical question asked by Critical Insights in Fall 2005, when 41% considered Plum Creek’s plan to be a bad idea, with 20% approving the concept. The 2005 poll took place before Plum Creek said it would revise its plan in response to public concerns. Over the past year, opposition to Plum Creek’s plan increased in every single demographic subgroup tested.
“The picture from this poll is perfectly clear: Maine people by a huge margin oppose Plum Creek’s massive development proposal for the beautiful Moosehead Lake region,” said NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim. “Mainers have an increasingly good understanding of Plum Creek’s proposal, and by growing numbers they don’t like it. If the people of Maine voted today, Plum Creek’s proposal for the Moosehead Lake region would go down in flames.”
The level of awareness of the Plum Creek development in Maine is high, with 82% of Maine people saying that they had heard of the proposal for the Moosehead Lake region. Only 17% said that they had not heard of the project. The survey also reveals that Maine people have seen or heard a great deal about Plum Creek on television and radio, with 23% saying that they had “seen, read, or heard messages about Plum Creek or the proposed Plum Creek development plan” more than five times in the last 30 days. 22% answered that they had seen 3-5 such messages in this time period; 27% said 1-2 messages.
The survey also tested whether Maine people agree with a central contention of a media campaign that the Seattle-based company has been airing for the past seven months. Since April 2006, Plum Creek has produced and run at least three different television ads on stations statewide, plus several radio ads, claiming that Plum Creek “has listened” to Maine people and responded with significant changes in their plan.
The Critical Insights survey, however, indicates that 50% of Maine people believe that Plum Creek “has not listened to the concerns of Maine people.” Only 29% believe that Plum Creek “has listened to the concerns of Maine people.” Across all demographic subgroups (geographic, gender, age, party affiliation) Maine people believe that Plum Creek “has not listened.”
“Plum Creek has bombarded Maine people with television and radio ads, yet more and more people oppose the company’s plan for Moosehead Lake. This should tell us all that Maine people are not fooled by Plum Creek’s public relations campaign,” said Didisheim.
In response to the Fall 2005 Critical Insights survey, Plum Creek spokesman Jim Lehner was quoted in the Kennebec Journal as saying: “What’s important isn’t today’s poll, but what people think as we continue to work on the plan.”¹
Plum Creek has proposed developing 975 house lots and two resorts around Moosehead Lake. The company initially submitted a permit application to the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission in April 2005, but withdrew the application in November 2005 in the face of public opposition. The company submitted a revised plan in April 2006, and immediately launched a statewide media campaign to promote the proposal – an unprecedented move aimed at trying to influence a permitting process in Maine.
“A year has passed since the last poll. Since then, Plum Creek has released their revised plan, held multiple press conferences to promote their plan, spent tens of thousands of dollars on media ads, crisscrossed the state with presentations, and now more people than ever oppose what they are trying to get away with around Moosehead Lake,” said Didisheim.
“The time has come for Plum Creek to develop a plan that would not destroy the beauty and character of the Moosehead Lake region. That’s what would earn support from Maine people,” said Didisheim.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine commissioned Critical Insights, a Portland-based non-partisan opinion research firm to do the survey. Critical Insights conducted a telephone survey of 408 randomly selected citizens throughout the State of Maine. Interviewing was conducted October 4 to 12, 2006. The sample size allows the results to be interpreted at the 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of +/-4.90 percent.
1 “Mainers aren’t sold on plans for Moosehead,” Chris Churchill, Kennebec Journal, 11/5/05, pA1