|Dear Ms. Edwards:|
Thank you for your considered letter and support of Orange County Voice. We agree with your comments about random sampling and its virtues. Because random sampling is so expensive, we elected to work with our advisors, Carl and Kathleen Hoffmann, to develop an unbiased survey instrument and a recruitment process to drive a broad spectrum of responses that more than adequately capture the views of rural residents. Dr. Hoffmann is a demographer and statistician and he and Kathleen have worked with surveys and analytics for over 30 years.
Even though our sample was not randomly selected, we received responses from a large cross section of rural residents including over 60% from outside Bingham Township. By engaging churches, rural community groups, fire departments, news outlets, convenience centers, and rural retail outlets, we were able to connect with residents throughout rural Orange County, including many that would be otherwise be ignored. This is evident in the 100 paper responses that we received from rural residents who do not rely on computers.
We never represented the survey sample to be random and clearly profiled our response group at the start of our report. We do believe that the survey responses represent the views of most rural residents. Since the survey engaged respondents in a thoughtful 40 question examination of their views and attitudes about garbage, recycling, and fees, there is no resemblance to casual signatures on a petition.
We made no attempt to characterize individual townships or communities, but the results are surprisingly consistent among all of them. We eliminated duplicate responses and responses from in-town residents. Many of the results were consistent with the county's own statistics - such as 60% of residents who receive curbside recycling actually use it.
We suspect the sample over-represents convenience center users (versus users of private haulers). However, since this segment of the population is the target of the county's service plans, the survey results are all the more relevant. An analysis of relationships among items indicates a statistically reliable coherence between reports of household physical characteristics and attitudes toward services. This, and the low incidence of skipped questions, indicates that our respondent group gave valid responses.
We are pleased that, despite your concerns, the survey represents your own attitudes about services for the rural community. Frankly, the feedback has overwhelmingly positive. We hope the county commissioners find the results helpful. It's certainly an improvement over the self-serving anecdotes that typically drive decisions about county services, fees and taxes.
All-in-all, we are hard-pressed to find any initiative -- private or government sponsored -- that more accurately represents the views of Orange County's rural residents on any subject. This work is core to our mission and we see the survey and the response from the rural community as an extraordinary first step to mobilizing a representative and effective voice.