Poll Finds Possible F-35 Mission In Boise Popular; Opposition Group Questions Results

Dec 7, 2017

A new poll finds a majority of Treasure Valley residents support locating an F-35 mission at Gowen Field in Boise.
Credit Norm Gunning / Boise State Public Radio

Results from a poll of just over 1,000 Treasure Valley residents conducted in September finds a majority want the military’s F-35 program to come to Boise’s Gowen Field.

The poll was commissioned by Zions Bank and carried out by Salt Lake City firm Cicero Group. It found 92 percent of respondents support the Idaho Air National Guard generally. Out of the 1,003 Treasure Valley residents surveyed, 73 percent say they favor Gowen Field being a base for an F-35 mission.

While many civic and business leaders throughout the area support the plan to bring the fighter jets to the region, some residents worry about noise pollution and their quality of life being diminished.

Dan Marler, the president of opposition group Citizens for a Livable Boise, questions the validity of the recent survey.

“They got the numbers they wanted by the people they chose to ask, not by the reality of polling the public. It’s a very fake result,” he says.

Among Marler’s concerns: Who was polled and what questions were asked.

“We asked, ‘Do you support the Idaho Air National Guard being located at Gowen Field in Boise?’” says Judd Nielsen, an analyst with Cicero Group, the firm that conducted the poll.

“Then we said, ‘Currently, the Idaho Air National Guard flies the A-10 Warthog; were you aware that the A-10 is scheduled to be retired by 2021?’ And then: ‘Gowen Field is currently being considered to base the F-35 after the A-10 is retired. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose the F-35 as the next flying mission at Gowen Field?’”

Nielsen says the group randomly called residents across the Treasure Valley on landlines and cell phones. At the end of the calls, pollsters would ask about education level, political affiliation and religion to get a better picture of the respondent and to make sure they fit the make-up of the area based on census data.

The fact the poll surveyed residents across the Treasure Valley is another point of contention for Marler, the president of Citizens for a Livable Boise.

“Indications are it was a thousand people in the Treasure Valley,” he says. “Well that’s a pretty good size spread, and it isn’t much of a collection.”

Nielsen, the analyst, disagrees.

“We would say that we have a 95 percent confidence that the data is within 3.1 percent on either side on any of the given questions,” Nielsen says.

That assertion isn’t deterring Citizens for a Livable Boise. Marler says the group is looking for its own experts to weigh in on the survey. Additionally, he says the search is on for people who participated in the poll.

“Out of a blanket survey we’ve done on social media, we have yet to find anybody to say they were surveyed,” claims Marler.

“I don’t know what the likelihood that somebody we polled is looking at their social media,” Nielsen counters. “So, I don’t think that’s a very valid way of trying to verify the data. I think our methodology stands.”

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they would support the F-35 at Gowen Field if most of the training flights were Monday through Friday with ten minutes of audible noise in the morning and another ten minutes in the evening.

Boise is among five Air National Guard bases in cities across the country that are considered finalists to host the jets. The Air Force is expected to choose two sites for the F-35 mission before the year is out.

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