WHOA’s survey shows most Placitans want horses removed or behind a fence

The Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) says on its website that its recent telephone poll shows 85.7% of Placitans “want the free-roaming horses to remain.” Remain where? In your yard? In my subdivision? On the BLM tract? Let’s unpack this statistic a bit.rabbit on phone

A total of 208 persons—that’s about 5% of Placitas adults–completed the August phone survey. Using the pollster’s report, we’ve done some simple number crunching to clarify the main findings and sentiments:

  • Move ’em out. About 14% of respondents want the horses to be rounded up and removed.
  • Put ’em behind a fence. About 38% want the horses managed on a horse sanctuary on BLM land.
  • Put ’em behind two fences. About 16% want the horses to be managed on a horse sanctuary on both BLM and Placitas Open Space (POS) lands.
  • All-you-can-eat buffet option. About 22% want the horses to be able to roam on “all unfenced private lands and all public lands in and adjacent to Placitas.”
  • Don’t talk to me about horses. About 11% don’t like any of these options or have no opinion.

A breakdown of the numbers is here. Those choosing one of the last four options had previously answered that they wanted the horses managed with contraceptives, fences and cattle guards. That yielded the 85.7% number WHOA is referring to, but as you can see, that group is divided on where the horses should be located.

So, slightly more than half of those surveyed, 52%, want the horses removed or confined to a horse sanctuary on local federal land (14% + 38%).

A minority of Placitas residents — about 22% – want the horses to wander freely through private property. And that may be a generous estimate, as halfway through the polling week, the polling company told us many residents declined to participate in the survey once they learned it was about the Placitas horses.

Questionable questions

One of our LOLR contributors notes:

“The survey didn’t ask the respondents if they had recently been on the POS, the BLM, or had experienced damage to their private property. So we don’t know how knowledgeable the 208 respondents were about the land conditions, which, as we know, would have an important bearing on their opinion about where the horses should be. For example, do they know the effect the free-roaming horses are having on our wildlife? Do they know the grasses in the BLM and POS have been chewed down to nothing, and we have sheet erosion as a result? Do they know the BLM, POS and private property arroyos are littered with horse manure, which spreads weeds?”

Those answering the poll also may not have been aware that the BLM has no plans to install a horse sanctuary (though some groups are hoping the land can be used that way in the future), that grazing animals are not allowed on the Placitas Open Space (so a sanctuary there is not currently an option), and that private property owners can legally impound trespassing horses. Because the survey ignored these realities, it isn’t a particularly helpful planning tool.

Bottom line: WHOA’s survey indicates that a majority of Placitas residents want the free-roaming horses removed or placed in a sanctuary – not wandering neighborhoods, homes and roads. We second that.

Note: The survey participation rate was apparently about 23% (208 out of about 900 targeted households). Research surveys generally aim for a participation rate above 60% to be considered valid, though public opinion polls may be less stringent, given most people these days hate being polled. Some government agencies require that additional steps be taken to verify the results for any survey with less than 70-80% participation. If the several hundred people who declined to take the WHOA survey have different sentiments about horses than the people who agreed to take the survey, it means the results may be skewed and not representative.