Two dueling interpretations of a SurveyUSA poll asking voters their views on the prospect of a new NBA team in Seattle got our attention this afternoon.

First, from the Slog:

Since reporting on Monday about group's plans for an initiative that would renovate KeyArena or build a new stadium to help bring the NBA back to Seattle, a new Survey USA poll has shown major support for the proposal and initiative backers say they've expanded their plans—responding to public enthusiasm—to make sure a new facility could also accommodate hockey.


The post goes on to cite one number—72 percent, the percentage of respondents who said they'd support a new arena that didn't cost citizens anything.

OK. Here's the P-I's take:
Poll: Most in region don't want, don't care about NBA team

A new survey shows pretty tepid support for the National Basketball Association in the Seattle area.

Sixty percent of respondents said they either don't want a new team or don't care one way or another, according to a KING5/SurveyUSA poll.


That number came from a different question—asking whether people supported, did not support, or were indifferent to the prospect of a new team.

So what explains the disparity? The Stranger's post took the most positive scenario, a stadium built with no tax dollars, and used it to characterize the poll as strongly favorable to a new or rebuilt stadium. In contrast, the P-I took the most straightforward question—do you want a new NBA team?—and concluded that voters were opposed or indifferent to the prospect.

The "free stadium" proposal also benefits from being entirely hypothetical. Arena boosters say the cost of a new or rebuilt arena—approximately $300 million, according to the most recent estimate—would be paid back entirely by user fees. With just over 1 million attendees a year before the Sonics left (600,000 of them Sonics fans), it's hard to see how user fees alone would pay to renovate or replace the arena.

Digging into the more detailed questions, in general, a strong majority of Seattle voters—60 percent—said they either don't want a team or don't care. Not surprisingly, then, a strong majority also say they would be unlikely to attend a game—57 percent. If the stadium was in Bellevue, a proposal supporters have strongly hyped, even more Seattle voters wouldn't go to games—a whopping 70 percent.

Finally, the 72 percent who support a new stadium if it's free weren't asked whether they would pay the massive user fees that would be required to pay back $300 million.

Shorter version: Most people in Seattle don't want, or are indifferent to the prospect of, a new or revamped stadium.Most people in Seattle wouldn't go to NBA games if there was a new stadium, especially if they were in Bellevue, as stadium boosters have proposed. And the only situation in which voters would support a stadium is the unlikely scenario in which it costs them nothing.

If and only if the stadium was free, however, a strong majority would be willing to accept it. How that translates into "strong support" for a ballot measure to fund a new stadium is anybody's guess.

Full survey questions and answers below.
Do you want a professional NBA basketball team in Seattle? Do you want Seattle to NOT have a professional basketball team? Or do you not care one way or the other?

Want team 41 percent

No team 18 percent

Don't care 42 percent

If an arena could be built for a new NBA team without using any taxpayer dollars, would you support? or oppose? building an arena?

Support 72 percent

Oppose 20 percent

Not sure 18 percent

If an NBA team did come to Seattle, how likely would you be to go to a game? Very likely? Somewhat likely? Not very likely? Or not at all likely?

Very likely 19

Somewhat likely 22

Not very likely 26

Not at all likely 31

Not sure 1

How likely would you be to go to a game if an NBA team played in the Bellevue area instead of in Seattle?

Very likely 13 percent

Somewhat likely 16 percent

Not very likely 28 percent

Not at all likely 42 percent

Not sure 1 percent
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