Heading into a crucial public hearing next week, the National Marine Manufacturers Association has released the results of a poll that suggests a majority of Miami-Dade County voters support the Miami International Boat Show's move to Virginia Key.
Just over half the 800 voters polled early this month backed the trade association's efforts to bring about 1,500 boats onto the upland and basin surrounding the historic Marine Stadium. Told of opposition from the Village of Key Biscayne, which has sued to stop the event, that support dipped to 46 percent but still compared favorably to 31 percent in opposition.
"What this poll shows me is that the Boat Show is not one of these hot button issues," said FIU political science professor and pollster Dario Moreno, who was contracted by local businesses, industry advocates and labor unions. "There's some controversy. The people of Key Biscayne are opposed. Some environmental groups are opposed. But this is not an issue that has reached a boiling point."
The poll, conducted by live callers, was released just days ahead of a hearing before the Miami-Dade County Commission to decide whether the NMMA will be granted a permit to allow for the operation of water taxis and the construction of a temporary marina with floating stages and more than 800 boat slips. Commissioners could have approved the permit last month, but requested more information from administrators and environmental regulators.
Environmental groups who oppose the show's introduction into an area next to a sensitive wildlife preserve will surely note that voters were not asked if environmental issues affect their opinions. Results also showed that more than half of the voters polled weren't "familiar" with the show.
Updated: On Thursday afternoon, Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay released a statement calling the poll a "bogus survey funded by [the Boat Show's] very own vendors and the marine industry. If the Boat Show really wanted an objective gauge of public opinion, they would have commissioned an independent poll, but that wouldn’t have served their needs."
But the poll showed heavy support in general from voters -- 87 percent support the show's continued existence -- and is being held up by backers of the massive trade show as evidence that opposition to the show isn't widespread.
“These results reaffirm what we already knew, which is that the South Florida community embraces the Miami International Boat Show, as well as the local marine industry that it helps support,” Marine Industries Association of South Florida Executive Director Phil Purcell said in a statement. "It was important for us to understand what the entire community wants, and the poll gave us our answer.”
The Boat Show is moving to Virginia Key due to renovations to the event's longtime home at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The U.S. Army Corps is also considering a permit.
The poll was paid for by Captain Harry’s; Cigarette Racing; Contender Boats; Hopkins Carter Marine Supply & Fishing Tackle; Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) nonprofit trade association; SeaVee Boats; Sign, Display & Allied Trades Local Union 1175; and Teamsters Union Local 769.