Letter: Flawed MGRHS 'survey' isn't worthy of name

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Flawed MGRHS 'survey' isn't worthy of name

To the editor:

The results of a town "survey" concerning the Mount Greylock Regional High School renovation and new construction project sent out to approximately 1,788 registered voters on January 20 became the heated topic during last Monday's Lanesborough Selectmen's meeting. Selectmen John Goerlach and Henry "Hank" Sayers publicly opposed the project based on the survey results. But the survey in question isn't a survey at all — in fact it's so poorly designed and the sampling frame so questionable it can't even be called a push poll.

There are 2,300 registered voters in Lanesborough, but the survey was mailed out to about 1,788 (894 actually responded). What were the criteria for voters that received the survey versus those who did not? A better question is why it wasn't sent out to all registered voters? That would be what's typically done. Did the town run out of paper and postage?

Question 1 would give a 4th grader pause. The question isn't even a question: "In relation to the Mount Greylock Regional School Building Project." Three choices are given to that statement: (1) I urge the Selectman to support the Mount Greylock Regional School Building Project; (2) I urge the Selectman to not support the Mount Greylock Regional School Building Project; and (3) None of the above. The technical term for a question like this is "double barreled". In the legal world such questions are referred to as "compound questions" and a judge would object in a court of law. In a nutshell this means that the question touches upon more than one issue but only allows one answer.

In the case of Question 1 there is an additional problem. The last answer choice "None of the Above" cannot be accurately interpreted. Eighty respondents chose this answer. It could mean that they have no opinion or it could mean they had an opinion that wasn't included as an answer choice. At the very least, the question should have included the additional option of "Other, please explain".

Despite this, Selectmen Goerlach and Sayers opposed the project because 435 survey respondents urged the Selectmen to do so versus 377 who urged them to support it. Yet we don't know what the 80 respondents who chose the "None of the above" choice want.

The survey included no questions concerning demographic or household information, which are typically included. Such questions ask about age, gender, and number of children in the household. Existing research suggests that households with school-aged children are more likely to vote for any kind of school improvements than those without children at home. Because no demographic questions were included, we cannot determine if households without children were disproportionately represented in the results.

Deidre Oakley, Atlanta The writer is a 1978 graduate of Mount Greylock Regional High School. She is a professor of Sociology at Georgia State University.


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