Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

New poll suggests 4 of 5 Americans support funding sidewalks, biking

May 9, 2012 - 11:05 AM
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(Photo: flickr/daquellamanera)

Several Congressmen, both Republican and Democrat, cheered on new survey results they're calling bipartisan and astounding this morning at the House Triangle near Capitol Hill. Why? The results, from a national Princeton Survey Research Associates International poll of more than 1,000 people, revealed that 83% of respondents support "maintaining or growing the federal funding streams that pay for sidewalks, bikeways, and bike paths."

These conclusions, of course, directly support the central issue for which the poll's sponsoring organization, America Bikes, advocates, which is worth noting. The survey consciously led respondents through a series of questions and detail before receiving their answers about increasing or maintaining sidewalk and bike funding. Here was the sequence of questioning, according to the full white paper on the poll:

Participants were first asked to estimate what percentage of federal transportation funding is currently spent on sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike paths. Participants were then were asked to say what percentage of transportation funds should be spent on biking and walking infrastructure. Respondents then learned that less than 2 percent of transportation funding goes to sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike paths; 17 percent is used for public transportation; and 80 percent is used for roads and highways. Respondents were asked if the percentage that goes to biking and walking should increase, decrease, or stay about the same.

The method naturally primes people to answer in the way they did, but the bias may not be terrible. These methods successfully alert people to how transportation funds really are spent, which many don't know. It matters that four out of five federal dollars go toward automotive transportation. A little education and proper disclosure of current funding may, sensibly, make a person more inclined to favor pedestrian and cycling investment. The survey seems like a direct challenge to the debates that seized Capitol Hill for much of the past year, with multiple Republican politicians challenging the notion that the government should be paying for these car-free amenities.

Here's a breakdown of the support, by political ideology, gender, age, income, education, geography, and more:

Chocolate strawberries
(Photo: America Bikes)

See the full report on the poll here.

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