Phone poll results side with St. Matthew's House, organization asserts

Do you support a St. Matthew's House shelter in Bonita Springs?

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— If you are a registered voter in Bonita Springs, chances are you were one of 300 people called last week posed with a survey.

“It was strange, normally I don’t answer surveys,” said Bonita Springs resident Carl Burich, who lives in the Spanish Wells neighborhood. “But then questioning started to relate to St. Matthew’s House and it got my attention.”

The anonymous poll, conducted from April 25 to 28, had Burich on the phone for almost 10 minutes. The poll was conducted by Schroth Eldon and Associates at St. Matthew’s House President and Chief Executive Officer Van Ellison’s request.

The organization was hoping to gauge residents' feelings about the shelter moving to Bonita Springs.

“We didn’t know what the numbers were going to be, “ Ellison said. “We waned to find real, accurate numbers, what the public opinion is in Bonita Springs.”

Ellison said the survey, which was written by Tom Eldon of the polling company, found 74 percent of the registered voters favor the St. Matthew’s House shelter’s proposal. About 14 percent of those surveyed opposed the shelter proposal, according to the results.

But those polled, like Burich, feel the questions were leading and intended to sway opinions to be in favor of St. Matthew’s House.

“The survey struck me as being absolutely bogus,” said Ron Pure, a Pelican Landing resident.

Questions began about voting status in the city and party affiliation, then onto knowledge of council members and ultimately onto questions pertaining to knowledge of St. Matthew’s House mission and what his opinion is about a homeless center in Bonita Springs.

“This is a very classic polling methodology,” Eldon said about his poll. “You start with as little information as possible, then provide the information and then retest.”

He added that the survey is nothing like a “push” poll, which is a political term used to describe surveys that are intended to sway opinion and slander the opposite side and disseminate negative information.

“This is research. It’s a scientific random sample survey,” Eldon said. He added that the survey did not offer any negative comments about the opposition. Also he said that the people polled accurately represent the city in age, ethnicity, political affiliation and gender.

Both Pure and Burich are full-time Bonita Springs residents who are also registered voters. Burich lives near the proposed St. Matthew’s House site and Pure does not. They did not know who was calling them or why the survey was being conducted.

“You never say who you’re calling on behalf of, you won’t get clean information,” Eldon said.

He also said that if the opposition were to conduct a survey of their own, the questions would not be any different.

“If you do the survey correctly, it should be honest and reflect terms of public debate,” Eldon said.

Ellison said he commissioned the survey since many council members have said they would vote as their constituents want, so to find out what this is, he asked Eldon for help. The survey, he said, was paid for by a singular donor to St. Matthew’s House who would not be named.

“We’re just trying to see if our message is working, and where we need to improve our information,” Ellison said.

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