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What was the question?

PARCS President Kristin Reynolds only scratched the surface when she described the recent city-sponsored survey as “very confusing.” The wording of individual questions was incredibly complex and convoluted; as a respondent, I found the vast majority of them difficult (if not impossible) to follow. The survey was apparently designed to explore several key issues which will have a real impact on our community — everything from city parks and recreation to additional development near the Civic Center. Unfortunately, the questionnaire was so poorly conceived, designed, and administered that it undermines the validity of the data.

As the owner of a market research firm, I’m embarrassed to admit that the survey was so difficult that I soon gave up trying to give any real answers: midway through, I started giving the same response over and over again just to get the interviewer off the phone. At least one local resident was reportedly interviewed twice. Unfortunately, in the survey business it’s “garbage in, garbage out” — if you don’t get good data from your respondents, if you present them with a survey they can’t follow, you jeopardize the accuracy of your findings.

If Malibu City Manager Harry Peacock plans to use this survey to determine “how much money people would be willing to spend to solve this problem,” he should be especially careful when he reviews the results. Councilman Harry Barovsky may want to know “how the community feels about acquiring more lands . . .and how they want to go about it,” but the manner in which this survey was conducted may not accurately reflect that.

At the very least, all of the decision makers involved in this project should have someone read the survey aloud to them, to determine for themselves exactly what kind of a survey we 400 respondents were presented with. As Ms. Reynolds aptly states, “It’s different when you read a survey and when you hear it over the phone. It’s a whole different animal.” If anyone involved in this project understood this fact, it certainly didn’t show.

Scott Tallal, president

Advanced Research Services

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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