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Forum editorial: 'Intensity' key factor for May 3rd

A Forum poll on the proposed downtown Fargo Renaissance Center project reveals that "intensity" could determine the outcome of May 3rd's vote. By "intensity," pollsters mean the level of commitment and interest the competing sides bring to the issue.

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A Forum poll on the proposed downtown Fargo Renaissance Center project reveals that "intensity" could determine the outcome of May 3rd's vote.

By "intensity," pollsters mean the level of commitment and interest the competing sides bring to the issue. While the poll sample showed that overall feelings broke against the project, it also confirmed that those most interested in the development favored it. They also are most likely to vote, the poll experts said.

The intensity measure of those favoring the project was higher than those who opposed it, the poll found. For example, of those who said they opposed the project, 80 percent said they don't feel that strongly about the issue, and many don't plan to vote. On the other hand, of the 61 percent who said they supported the project, most were very interested and very likely to vote.

In other words, there appears to be more "ho hum" among the opponents and more "gung ho" among the supporters.

All of that suggests the competing campaigns waged between now and May 3 should be geared toward voter turnout. The side that energizes its base - those who either strongly oppose or strongly favor the project - could carry the day.

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Of course, the vote to extend the Fargodome sales tax for the downtown project requires a 60 percent yes vote for approval. That's a high bar. But that's 60 percent of those voting. If those who vote are - as the poll's intensity measure suggests - people with strong feelings one way or the other about the project, the outcome will turn on which side most effectively mobilizes its base.

The poll, which was conducted last week by the Public Affairs Institute at Minnesota State University Moorhead, also indicated there is some opportunity for opponents and supporters to bring less-committed voters into their camps. The poll found a significant number of Fargoans not engaged in the downtown debate. They might be aware of the center proposal, but don't know much about it. Nearly 40 percent said they weren't at all interested. If their interest could be sparked, they could influence the outcome.

It's important to understand that the poll is not a predictor of an outcome on May 3, but rather an indicator of attitudes when the poll was taken. Within those attitudes, poll analysts found statistical markers that suggest the involvement of voters in the issue can determine voting preference. That is vital information for both sides of the Renaissance Center debate.

Whether for or against the downtown proposal, the key will be getting voters to the polls. Apathy on either side could mean the difference. But a yes vote requires 60 percent, so supporters of the project have a higher hurdle to clear than opponents.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum

management and the newspaper's Editorial Board

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