Survey results add fire over facts to I-526 debate

As the debate over extending I-526 through John and James island continues, a new facet is entering the debate: a public opinion poll.

Weighing counter to the hundreds of impassioned opponents to the road that turned up at public meetings, a survey of households in proximity to the road project says a majority support the road.

72.2% of those surveyed supported the completion of I-526.

Sure to incite concerns of bias is that the survey was commissioned by the S.C. Department of Transportation — a group who is advocating the completion of the road. The survey was conducted by the University of South Carolina's business research program.

Meanwhile supporters of the road project have already sent out press releases lauding the survey results.

A meeting of SCDOT commissioners is due on September 20, and detractors are hoping the project could be derailed then.

Here are details on the survey results and methodology:

This survey was conducted by mail, with mail and telephone follow-ups between July 25 and September 1, 2012. Five thousand households in the area that is most likely to be affected by the proposed extension of the Mark Clark Expressway -- zip codes 29407, 29412, 29414, 29439, 29455, and 29487 -- were selected randomly and asked to participate in this study. Information was provided from 2,189 households. The overall response rate for this study was 44.5%.

Overall, 72.2% of respondents in the target area favor building the extension of the Mark Clark Expressway along this proposed route and 27.8% are opposed. Not only does a significant majority of adults in this area support this proposed extension, but a majority of each group examined in this study does as well.

Although there are significant differences in level of support for this proposed extension across groups, a majority of each group examined in this analysis exhibited support for this project. Across zip codes, for example, the lowest percentages in favor of this proposed extension were found in zip codes 29487 and 29412. Even in these two areas, however, there was majority support for this proposal: 60.0% in zip code 29487 and 62.8% in 29412.

Similarly, a higher percentage of older than younger respondents favored the proposed extension. Even among those under 30, there was a solid majority (68.0%) in favor of the extension, as there was among those ages 30 to 44 (69.4%). The percentage in favor increased to 73.1% among those ages 45 to 64, and to 80.4% among those age 65 or older.

Men were more likely than women to favor the extension of the Mark Clark Expressway along the proposed route, 78.7% to 67.4%. Although a lower percentage of women than men supported the proposed extension, approximately two-thirds of this group indicated that they favored it.

Differences across races were statistically significant, but a majority of each group was in favor of building the extension: 81.8% of African-Americans, 70.2% of whites, and 65.3% of those of other races indicated that they favored building the extension of the Mark Clark Expressway along the proposed route.