Pages

Monday, June 15, 2009

Survey Says: Not New Paltz

The Town has posted the "Draft Public Input Element" as part of the Comprehensive Plan process here. Two points will be awarded to the first Gadfly reader who identifies kt's participant quote on page three.

Putting aside for the moment the merits of surveys in general, as promised, here is my analysis of the Town comprehensive survey results - in terms of whether or not the resulting sample is representative of Town Residents.

As I said in my previous post on this topic, "Done well, random sampling methods include contact with a small number of people, the results of which can represent the entire population under study. The answers obtained from a scientific probability survey are not just answers from those individuals who responded but more importantly, because of the design and methods by which the data is collected, can be used to generalize to the population as a whole. We want a methodology that ensures results are an estimate of what would have been obtained if all adults in the New Paltz were interviewed."

With that in mind, I compared the demography of the survey results with that of the Census. (Admittedly, somewhat old since the last Census was in 2000.) My analysis finds that:

As far as the number of adults in household and age categories(except for age 65+), the data is not comparable to Census. With respect to the presence of children in HH, those age 65+, and college (only) graduates, the survey is representative. However, there are some significantly underrepresented groups: Renters, Residents not in the labor force, Households earning less than $50,000 per year, and Residents with less than a college degree. Correspondingly, these group are overrepresented (which skews the results towards the views of these groups): Homeowners, Employed persons, Households earning more than $50,000 per year, and Residents with post-graduate degrees. Also worthy of note, since certain questions were absent from the survey, we have no comparison to actual population for Gender and Race/Ethnicity.

Based on this, my conclusion is that, whether you like the content of the survey or not is irrelevant, as the survey results are not representative of the population of the Town of New Paltz.

kt Tobin Flusser

14 comments:

Billy said...

So? Our elected officials are put there by a small part of the overall electorate. Does that make them illigitmate? If you wait around for full participation/representation, we'll never get anything done.

Terence said...

Kt - "children present in HH" means what, exactly?

Billy - that's exactly the point. The decisions made here are going to be really tough to take back. I would rather the process takes longer (which is exactly why there needs to be a moratorium NOW, so that more development doesn't happen until we know what's what) and actually get it right. Kt isn't asking for full participation (though that would be ideal), she's asking that the survey be given to a cross section that could reasonably be considered to have the same views as all of us. I'm both overrepresented and underrepresented, so I guess I'm set, but I want this plan to actually reflect what people in New Paltz want. Elected officials come and go, and sometimes we get a decent turnout, but this plan is probably going to be around far, far longer than any of our officials.

kt tobin flusser said...

Terence - Children in HH in the survey was anyone answering 1 or more to "How many children (under 18) are living in your residence?" for Census, count of households "With individuals under 18 years".

Billy - Of course elected officials can not demographically represent the entire populace. The goal of a representative survey is totally different - the beauty of random sampling is that you can interview a subset of the population and generalize to the whole. Just like when you give blood - you only need to sample a bit to know what's going on.

Terence said...

So what exactly does HH stand for, then? Household helpers?

kt tobin flusser said...

household! ha!

Billy said...

I mostly agree. But aren't response rates pretty much predicatable across demographic groups? Of course efforts should be made to have a truely representative response, but you can't force people to respond anymore than you can make them vote. The people who are paying attention and have the strongest opinions will always be "overrepresented." I'm not sure that's an entirely bad thing. For example, the politically correct thing is to say that renters' opinions matter as much as homeowners. But they don't. Not because I say so, but because the renters do. Or rather, they say so through their inaction. Longterm residents who rent are likely to pay attention and their voices should be heard. But much of the rental population is relatively transitory. This is not a bad thing or a good thing. But it is a fact. So, I'm not too concerned if the SUNY senior who graduates next year -- after which they'll move to NYC -- doesn't bother reponding to a survey asking what the future of New Paltz should look like.

gadfly3 said...

As the first meeting was widely publicized it had a decent response albeit manly from the elitists and agendaists. The second meeting which was not attended by many people was keeped relatively quiet. There seems to be a specific agenda bycertain groups at work here. The "we got ours but you can't have yours"?

Billy said...

@gadfly3 First of all, please identify or at least define what you mean by the "elitists and agendaists"? Second, name one group that doesn't have a "specific agenda" aimed at benfitting that group first-and foremost. This is only considered a bad thing when it's not your agenda, but a good thing when it is. So much time and effort is wasted in this town/village dealing with people's petty resentments.

gadfly3 said...

The Elitists are those who have theirs and want to keep others from attaining theirs as they are afraid it would diminish the value of their worth. The agendaists are those who believe they know what is best for everyone, and push their agendas through regardless of who or how many suffer as a result

Billy said...

@gadfly3 OK. But to advance this debate at all, you'd have to tell me how this plays out in New Paltz. I'd argue that any individual group could fairly label any other opposing indidivual or group thusly, thereby draining these labels of all meaning. What does it mean to "have theirs", for example?

Martin McPhillips said...

Could be true that one man's prudential judgment is another man's elitism, but the very concept of "Master Plan" asks the question "who is the Master and what makes him or them so masterful as to design the future?"

Working case-by-case around the edges of the status quo is probably going to be a lot better and safe in terms of fairness and smartness than to let anyone or any group get into the saddle via a "Master Plan."

Any central plan by its nature runs into the "knowledge problem" (individual decisions about what is best vis a vis one's own property) and the longer a status quo has been in place (i.e., the current "Master Plan") the fairer it will be with respect to long-term planning by individuals, whose own best judgments can easily be swept aside by a new Master as if they did not matter.

gadfly3 said...

Have theirs refers to those people who purchased their home at reasonable prices and by restricting growth have had their property value increase by 6 maybe seven times. These are the same people who constantly approve of increasing taxes to keep poorer people out of their New Paltz

Billy said...

@gadfly3 I'm sure it can seem like the "have theirs" you describe are a signficantly large group, but I doubt that's actually the case. Keep in mind that people who bought when things were more affordable and are still here are not speculators who flipped their houses when prices increased. Also keep in mind that along with their property values, their taxes have gone up too, likely outstripping their real ability to pay them. I know a lot of people from a lot of different socio-economic groups in NP. I don't know anyone who wants their taxes raised as part of some scheme to keep "have nots" out.

Anonymous said...

It is so interesting to read this column. There are so many important issues facing New Paltz now and in the future, yet all the comments in this column seem to be more concerned with whether or not there is pure representation of ALL of New Paltz, who the haves and have nots are and what exactly does anyone mean by these terms!!! This is not unlike debating minutia on cap and trade while our planet continues to move toward self distruction. Or, from a historical perspective, fiddling while Rome is burning. Get with it Gaddies and see that a Master Plan is not a definitive document on anything. No one is all-knowing. It is the best policy toward future growth that can be come up with given all the difficult people to work with in the community. We are making it too easy for Toni to do whatever she wants when we all focus and divide on all this nonsense.