Survey of Northfield residents: what did we get for $12,500?

Decision Resources Survey - NorthfieldLast week’s Council packet (page 0-135) has the results of the 2011 Northfield community survey  conducted by Bill Morris of Decision Resources, Inc.

Councilor Betsey Buckheit published her opinion about the survey in a new blog post yesterday. She was not impressed.


  1. Griff, You’re right that I’m not impressed, but that’s because I don’t think the survey will do more than give us very general direction. Having a broad gauge of the perception of the city is not a bad thing and it may help the Council prioritize its budgeting and ask questions about what we spend. However, policy decisions will not be made inevitable as a result of this survey.

    The social media question is interesting. Survey says most people get their information from the local newspaper. Fair enough, since the city doesn’t have a great website or use social media in anything but the most minimal way. It would have been useful to know how many surveyed use social media and/or where they get most of their news, not just city news. If we discovered that many use social media for news and then focused our attention on delivering city information using these channels, what would the results look like in 2 years?

    May 2, 2011
  2. Jennifer Torgrimson said:


    When I read the article in the Northfield News (online version) I decided to send a note to the report. My thoughts were that the survey would be incredibly skewed because they called people in town. This would mean that:
    1) people would need to have a Northfield telephone number; and
    2) people who answered the phone would need to agree to take the survey and share their opinions.

    My thinking was that this would not get a good cross-section of residents as I only can think of two people who have a home phone. Everyone else has cell phones. I personally haven’t had a land line since 2007. It’s more likely that the people who have the land lines are older and have lived here for quite some time. Additionally, who agrees to take phone surveys anymore? Again, most likely only older people.

    The reporter told me that from the information she’d received, people were called on their cell phones as well. How did the city get those people’s cell numbers? I know that I would be very surprised to find out that the city had my cell phone number, and additionally surprised that they gave my unlisted cell number out to some company.

    Doesn’t anyone else find this strange?

    May 2, 2011
  3. Arlen Malecha said:

    I think the same or better results could have been garnered had each Ward Rep been give $100 to buy donuts and coffee and held Ward meetings.

    May 2, 2011
  4. Steph Henriksen said:

    I tend to agree with you, Arlen, on expenditure of the $12,500.

    I don’t see my comment posted a moment ago, so here it is again.
    Check out p.20, giving the breakdown of answers on development.
    What is your major concern, if anything, about future growth in Northfield?
    NOTHING………………………………….. 16%

    If the person said they had no concerns about future growth, I would have thought they meant the current pace was correct. But the report says it means they “want no further development in the community” (p. 20).
    Anybody but me wondering about this?

    May 2, 2011
  5. David Beimers said:

    Jennifer – I don’t know all the details of the methodology, but from my own survey research experience, I can tell you the following:
    1) about two-thirds of households still have landlines;
    2) survey researchers can purchase lists of cell phone numbers from phone companies;
    3) survey researchers are exempt from ‘do not call’ lists, so they can get all the available numbers;

    Since they used random sample, the study should be a fairly accurate representation of Northfield. As for who agrees to take a phone survey, they tend to be people who have an investment in the outcome. This may skew towards older, longer-term residents, but only because younger people would decline to participate, not because of any systematic bias.

    May 3, 2011
  6. Jennifer Torgrimson said:


    That’s interesting that 2/3 of households have land lines. My research found that was true between 2006 and 2009. I really do question that high of a percentage because, like I said, I can only think of a few people who have them…out of about 60 or 70 people.

    Also interesting that survey researchers are allowed to get lists from cell phone companies. I’ll have to call my company and make sure I’m not on ANY lists they sell. I only want people I know to call me. Part of why I like having a cell phone (only) is because I get to choose who has my telephone number.

    It just seems that there could be a better way to try to get an actual cross-section of Northfield’s population. I do feel that information is important, but irrelevant if it’s not good data.

    I also agree with the person who wrote they’d probably have gotten these same results and spent far less money by just serving fee coffee and doughnuts at a meeting.

    May 3, 2011
  7. Phil Poyner said:

    As late as mid-2010, report indicate that only 25% of MN households had gone “wireless”. Based on that I’d say that David’s estimate that 2/3rds of households still have landlines may be close.

    May 4, 2011

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