A recent poll seems to support economic and government leaders’ statements that Boise’s anti-F-35 crowd is a small but loud minority.
Salt Lake City-based data firm Cicero Group conducted a poll of 1,003 Treasure Valley residents in September, according to results released by Zions Bank, which commissioned the poll.
The vast majority — 92 percent — of respondents said they support the Idaho Air National Guard. A smaller but still significant majority — 82 percent — said they favor a new mission for Gowen Field, the Guard’s base near the Boise Airport. The Idaho Air Guard shares the Boise Airport’s runways.
Cicero’s poll found 73 percent of respondents favor basing F-35s at Gowen Field.
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A proposal to bring the advanced fighter planes to Boise has generated a controversy around the city and across the Treasure Valley. Some people worry that the aircraft will make so much more noise than the A-10s based here now that they will diminish Boise’s quality of life.
Economic and political leaders, including Mayor Dave Bieter, Gov. Butch Otter and the state’s congressional delegation, say bringing the F-35 to Boise will boost the local economy by stabilizing the Guard’s presence here and spurring new businesses to support the mission.
The U.S. Air Force is scheduled to decide soon whether to base a squadron of F-35s in Boise. Four Air National Guard bases are on the list of F-35 finalists with Gowen. They are located in Alabama, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan. The Air Force says it will pick two bases from the five finalists.
In October, Zions Bank President A. Scott Anderson sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson that highlighted the Treasure Valley’s support for the F-35 and encouraged Wilson to pick Gowen Field. Anderson’s letter mentioned the same assets that Gowen’s cheerleaders have advertised: top-notch training airspace, facilities at the base and its location west of the Rocky Mountains.
Cicero analyst Judd Nielsen said Wednesday that he is confident the poll accurately reflects public opinion in the Treasure Valley. He said Dan Jones, who oversaw its execution, has been polling since the Richard Nixon-John F. Kennedy presidential contest of 1960.
Cicero has conducted polls in Idaho on the gubernatorial campaign of 2014, last year’s presidential race, public policy issues and other topics. Many of the polls were commissioned by Idaho Politics Weekly, a politics and government newsletter supported by Zions Bank.
Cicero obtained phone both cellphone and land-line records through a sample provider the company is familiar with, Nielsen said. The number of records corresponded to U.S. Census Bureau data on the populations of each county, he said. The polling team then dialed numbers randomly and confirmed through live conversations where respondents live.
Nielsen said the 1,003 respondents Cicero sampled were more than enough to gain a reliable and accurate result. The poll had a 3.1 percent margin of error.
The poll found that 62 percent of respondents knew that the A-10s stationed at Gowen are scheduled to be retired in the next three to five years. Seventy-four percent said they were either “very aware” or “somewhat aware” of the F-35 proposal.
Most respondents — 84 percent — said they “definitely” or “probably” would support the F-35 mission “if most of the training flights were Monday through Friday with 10 minutes of audible noise in the morning and 10 minutes of audible noise in the evening” — an approximation of the F-35 wing’s potential noise impacts on Boise. About half said the public has received adequate information about the F-35 proposal.