From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 36 - December 2, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Pinedale poll goes nationwide

by Cat Urbigkit

Earlier this summer, Sublette County residents were asked to respond to a public opinion survey being conducted by a university. The survey was being used to gauge how Pinedale-area residents feel about natural gas development and environmental protection.

Although area residents were to learn the results of the survey by this fall, now it appears the polling effort has gone national.

Last week, the Examiner was contacted by a woman in South Carolina who had been asked to fill out the survey over the Internet via a Zogby International link. She’s never been to Pinedale before.

“I find it so strange that I am going to answer surveys about a city I’ve never been in,” she said. The woman believes she, a member of a Zogby research group, was asked to answer the survey because of her views on the environment.

“I’m very, very environmentally friendly. I’m a fanatic about it,” the woman said. The Examiner has withheld the woman’s name from publication.

The survey originated with Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management, based in Houston, Texas. Graduate students traveled to Pinedale conducting interviews and hosted a booth during the Green River Rendezvous, in addition to soliciting views via a survey mailed to residents.

The survey explores the values people place on wildlife, the environment, energy and residential development, as well as the willingness to make trade-offs between energy development and environmental protection.

Rice University Professor Marc Epstein said in a July interview that while the survey questions aren’t perfect, what the survey tries to understand is the attitudes and willingness to pay for various resources. He said the goal isn’t to take one side over the other, but to provide a way to measure how strongly people feel about some things.

The survey asks participants to measure how much of a threat different issues pose to the environment, including residential development, gas exploration and production, fencing used for ranching and infrastructure.

One polling question opens with: “Energy companies can invest in programs and technologies to mitigate potential impacts on wildlife. The cost of energy is partially affected by the preservation efforts from energy companies. Please indicate your preference for the tradeoff between the cost of energy and wildlife preservation in Wyoming.”

A similar question refers to the tradeoff between residential development and wildlife preservation.

The participant is asked how much money he or she would be willing to pay for lower energy costs with no wildlife preservation, how much money and effort the participant spends on hunting and outdoor activities, as well as how much of an increase in cost the participant would pay to ensure wildlife populations are preserved.

Two questions each begin with the statement, “Conservationist groups may pool money in order to purchase or lease land to help provide contiguous habitats and ensure free passage of animals though migration routes.” The respondent is then asked to identify the highest amount they would agree to donate “each year for the next 10 years above what you currently donate to conservationists groups to counteract the effects” of either residential development or natural gas development.

Epstein said in July that the research should be done by late fall and the resulting report will be made public. But the survey was sent out on the Internet by Zogby on Nov. 17.

Contacted this week, Epstien said: “We also conducted the same survey with a national population through the national polling company Zogby International. It was very important to also determine the attitudes of the non-Wyoming residents to the same issues of balancing development and the environment and the results are quite similar. Since non-Wyoming residents also use some of the same resources and have a stake in these issues, we wanted to determine their attitudes also.

“I am hopeful that the results of our research will be available around the first of the year and they will be widely distributed,” Epstein said.

Zogby International is a New York-based polling firm offering a variety of services to clients, from mock juries and exit polls to phone banks and news releases.

When it comes to public opinion, Zoby’s website said: “Based on your specifications, Zogby International will poll to find out what the public feels about the topic of your choosing. It could be the location of your new offices, the color of your new logo, or the way you should vote on a piece of legislation. Whether you want to determine your standing in your community or your standing in the global spectrum, a Zogby International poll will find out where you’ve been, where you are, and how best to proceed.”

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