Saturday, December 21, 2013

Poll Results: What Readers Are Thinking About

Gothics Mountain Medium ResThank you readers!  The results of my little poll exceeded my expectations.  I received nearly 150 responses, a great number.

Let me remind you that this poll was intended to be neither scientific nor comprehensive.  It was designed by me to see if the results would highlight what I think is a hidden issue concerning the future of the Adirondack Park.  It did that for sure, but it also provided other insights.

Here is how the issues fell out, ranked by weighted average:




Issue or Factor

Weighted Average


Land Use Law, Policy and Practice



State Agencies, Policies and Regulations



Watershed Protection



Invasive Species



The Regional Education System



Climate Change






Scientific and Technological Advancement



The Regional Health Care System



Socioeconomic/Racial Population Diversity



This is a large enough sample size to submit to some analysis.  Also encouraging was the fact that the trends were in early – after the first couple dozen responses or so – and from there settled into the patterns already in evidence.  Therefore the results give a reasonable representative snapshot of what Almanack readers are thinking.

There were some interesting results.  There was a big winner, a clear second place, then a dead heat among three issues also rated as important.  These were followed by a Jeckyl-and-Hyde issue in the middle of the pack, along with an evenly-distributed issue, then a big gap separating the bottom three and another big gap putting one issue last by a large margin.

The winner, certain not to surprise anyone, was Land Use Law, Policy and Practice.  I think even if this were not a super-hot issue right now it would still have landed at the top for obvious reasons.  Land Use had the highest weighted average by a good margin.  It also had the highest number of first-place votes, more than double any other issue except Climate Change.

Second place went to State Agencies, Policies and Regulations, which while it was well behind Land Use, was in more people’s top four than any remaining issue.  Very few people considered it unimportant.

These top two issues reflect most of the discussions and comments on the Almanack and I would think constitute relative no-brainers.

The next three issues were also considered important and ended in a statistical dead heat with nearly identical weighted averages: Watershed Protection, Invasive Species and the Regional Education System.  The first two are not a surprise but I thought the third was a little bit unexpected.  There is not much discussion of the educational system in the Adirondacks but people are clearly future-oriented enough to see its long-term importance.  It is telling that while opinions on both Watershed Protection and Invasive Species were fairly evenly spread across the board, almost no one rated the Regional Education System issue as unimportant.  It received the fewest last-place votes (one) in the entire survey.

The next two issues were statistically in the middle, very close to the mean but for entirely different reasons: Climate Change and Tourism.  The vote for Climate Change reflects the controversy over whether it is real and/or human-caused.  On the one hand it received the second-most first place votes, just behind Land Use.  But it also received the second-most last place votes.  This clear schism landed it in the middle in terms of average, but clearly relatively few readers think it’s an average issue; you hold strong opinions one way or the other.  Tourism had by far the flattest response, with every ranking represented and the gap between largest and smallest rankings a mere 15 votes.  This indicates there is no consensus at all on the importance of tourism, also that it is likely an issue that is not well defined in people’s minds.

The largest gap in weighted average separated these first seven issues, all at or above the mean, from the bottom three issues, which were way down the list.

The first two of them were Scientific and Technological Advancement and Regional Health Care.  The ranking of the former fits my own opinion; we seem to be in a contemporary milieu that lacks much understanding or appreciation for science.  The ranking of the latter is more of a surprise; with all the bloviating about Obamacare and the anger over the Administration’s prevarications about the botched roll-out, not to mention the importance of regional health care in the park, I would have guessed this issue would have gotten a profile closer to the Regional Education System issue and thus be higher on the list.

The last issue, Socioeconomic/Racial Population Diversity, finished dead last in weighted average by a pretty good margin.  It received the greatest number of last-place votes, double even Climate Change.  It also received the fewest top-three votes and the most bottom-three votes.  That’s pretty definitive.

This is just a quick snapshot, but it always interests me how much even a modest survey can reveal.

You will notice that I have not yet revealed my hidden issue, the one I suspected is not being discussed or considered much.  After the new year I will turn my attention to it with a series of columns.

For now, let’s just say that the poll results confirmed my suspicions dead-on.  They tell me that there is indeed a hidden issue concerning the future of the Adirondack Park.

Merry Christmas, readers!  I’m grateful you are out there.

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Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

7 Responses

  1. George L says:

    Assuming that the creation of thousands of well-paying jobs throughout the Adks is not on the list, because it was not presented as a category, does this mean that planners and thinkers should ignore this issue?

    What is the demography of folks who have a computer and read this column?

    Would the unemployed/underemployed respond differently than someone economically secure?

    How would “policy-makers” and legislators rate the issues?

    I am wondering about the value of this exercise …

  2. Pete Nelson says:


    I don’t think this exercise has any value for planners nor much value to anyone outside this audience. All my disclaimers at the beginning, including my choice of words for the title, reflect that. But for my purposes it went swimmingly; stay tuned.

  3. zxyw says:

    The thing about climate change is that it will severely impact and possibly overwhelm whatever is happening in every other option on your list.

  4. Bill Ott says:

    I attempted to post a reply yesterday but it it not get on. It seemed the site may have been having problems. I am trying to post this again because I reread it and really stand behind it.

    Mr. Nelson,

    Your survey and its results are one of the more engaging items I have seen in the AA. It gave me a framework to clarify and express my ideas on the park and its future, but reading the results brought up some questions about the survey itself. I realize it was not meant to be scientific, but I would like to raise these questions anyway.

    First, could you sort out duplicate entries? When I finished sorting and hit the “next page” button I came to a survey download page and didn’t know if the survey had actually been submitted. I did it again to see if I had screwed up, thereby possibly skewing up the results.

    Second, I am from out of the Blue Line, so my concerns are more about the woods than the economy. (I do spend as much money as I can inside the line for equipment, food, and fuel even if I could do better outside.) My point is that if the survey were divided between natives and others, you might have two different results.

    Third, when studying the results, I realized some questions could be viewed in different shades of green. For instance, climate change is important, but we don’t have much control over it aside from changing light bulbs, driving better cars, and voting. Also, I rated tourism at or near the bottom thinking about its lack of contribution to the woods, but on second thought may have rated it higher because of its pressure on the natural resources, even if only from the trash dumped along roads.

    And finally, with more than 7500 daily subscribers to the AA, I thought there would be more responses.

    The Almanack is important because of the free exchange of ideas here, and I think surveys like yours could be an important way to crystallize one’s thinking.

    Finally, I am here:

    Bill Ott
    Lakewood, Ohio

  5. Paul says:

    Pete, How to actually analyze these results is a little confusing to me. It seems like you could interpret these categories and the significance of how someone would rate them in many ways?

    Have a great holiday!

  6. Jon says:

    I completed the first poll question. Then I got an advertisement page which was supposed to be optional but there’s no way to skip that page and continue with the poll.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      Sorry for your trouble. I checked the poll site and it is still up. There is only one page, you can sort all the items on the page at will. After that one page the poll entry is complete.


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