Mystery survey results revealed | AspenTimes.com

Mystery survey results revealed

Abigail Eagye

A recent phone survey that confused a number of locals is a little less mysterious this week, following an advertisement placed in the Monday editions of both Aspen newspapers. Still, the people who sponsored the survey remain “confidential.”Seattle-based The Connections Group published the results of the survey and apologized for confusion that resulted when some interviewers mistakenly said the poll was being conducted on behalf of the Aspen Planning Commission. The city has no connection to the phone survey.Cathy Allen, president and chief executive officer of The Connections Group, said her company was hired by a “sizable list of property owners and homeowners,” all Aspen residents, to research local views on development.Allen said the snafu with the wording elicited a huge response from the Aspen community, prompting the decision to run Monday’s ads.”In 30 years in the politics of public policy business, I’ve never had this happen to me,” she said of the mistake, which she attributed to “the phoners themselves.” Last week, a supervisor at Inquire Market Research, the company that actually placed the calls, also stated that the error began with Inquire’s interviewers.Although The Connections Group’s clients are confidential, Allen did say the group that commissioned the Aspen survey “thought that there was a much less objective directive … the City Council was going toward.”In particular, she said, the group is concerned about questions the city asked at a recent series of community meetings and focus groups, especially because a number of participants were not Aspen residents.Allen designed the questions after following Aspen newspapers for several months and watching the city’s recent public meetings at the Hotel Jerome. Those meetings were conducted in a similar survey style, but her clients weren’t happy with the questions the city asked, according to Allen.City spokeswoman Mitzi Rapkin said last week that she believes the questions in The Connections Group survey are biased. Allen flatly denies the charges.”I frankly poll all ranges of things,” she said. “My job was to go through [the city’s questions] and find out those that were more relevant to my clients,” as well as supplementing with any questions the city didn’t pose.The Connections Group survey refers several times to the city’s proposed land-use code changes. In one question, the survey is very specific about proposed changes to the land-sue code. “How familiar are you,” survey questioners asked local respondents, “with proposed changes to the land-use code that will be under consideration before the City Council in September – very familiar, somewhat familiar or not familiar at all?”In fact, the City Council has not yet formally proposed any specific code changes. Allen said the survey refers to discussions of types of changes the council could formally propose later on.According to The Connections Group ad, of the 249 Aspen residents and registered voters who responded to the survey, 66 percent own property in Aspen. Of that 66 percent, more than 90 percent stated the property they own is their home. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they rent or own free-market homes (16 percent renters; 42 percent owners), while 38 percent rent or own ADUs (16 percent renters; 22 percent owners). The city’s housing department defines an ADU as “accessory dwelling unit”; The Connections Group ad does not define ADU. The survey did not offer a specific response for deed-restricted homeowners or renters.Forty-two percent of respondents said they have an annual household incomes of less than $75,000, while 39 percent make between $75,000-$150,000.The ad is on page A32 of Monday’s Aspen Times. It states that written reports of the survey can be requested at info@connectionsgroup.org while supplies last.Allen said her company is currently looking at other research avenues for its Aspen clients, possibly to include other surveys, focus groups and door-to-door surveys.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com