Airbnb is fighting San Francisco with political tactics and trumpeting polls that show how popular it is

Airbnb at SF PrideAirbnbAn Airbnb supporter at SF Pride.

As Airbnb prepares for its legal battle with the city of San Francisco on Thursday, the home-sharing service is pressing its case in the court of public opinion.

The internet startup, which is valued at $30 billion, is trumpeting new research that it claims prove the public is on its side.

A poll commissioned by Airbnb and conducted by David Binder Research, shows that 69% of likely San Francisco voters support allowing residents to rent out their homes through Airbnb, according to the results shared with Business Insider.

Of the 500 people polled representing likely November voters, 54% thought Airbnb was a good thing for the city of San Francisco compared to 27% who thought it was bad for the city.

The indicated public support from San Francisco residents comes at a time when Airbnb is squaring off with the city of San Francisco in court and as local government officials throughout the country have raised concerns that the home-sharing service is skirting regulations and depriving cities of tax revenue.

San Francisco first passed short term rental regulations in early 2015, but its city supervisors have been intent on revising it. A ballot measure in November threatened to pass even stricter rules against the company, but failed to garner public support. In early June, San Francisco once again pushed forward with more regulation, essentially backing Airbnb into a corner where it had to either comply with tougher rental legislation or face daily fines.

Saviour of the middle class

In June, Airbnb decided to sue San Francisco over the latest regulations, arguing that the city broke federal law and went against its First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.

The new legislation requires that Airbnb list on its website only properties that are in compliance and have a registration number. Supervisor David Campos, who put forth the legislation, likened it to a rental-car company requiring a driver’s licence to operate.

The parties will face off at a court hearing on Thursday to determine whether the city of San Francisco can enforce the regulation.

Airbnb has positioned itself as a saviour for the middle class in San Francisco, a city that’s one of the most expensive in the country and faces a housing shortage. 79% of the likely voters supported Airbnb’s claims that it “helps San Francisco residents earn an extra few thousand dollars per year to help cover expenses,” according to the new survey. Only 16% disagreed with the notion.

The survey results echo Airbnb’s position that it helps San Francisco residents and isn’t a negative for the city.

“Home sharing helps thousands of San Franciscans earn extra income to pay their bills and their rent,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to working with the city on rules for home sharing that work.”

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