We are proud to present the first-ever comprehensive San Luis Valley Rural Poll, which measures quality of life in the six counties of the Valley. We have never seen a survey of Valley residents on the issues of today and so we decided to conduct one ourselves, through a random sampling of registered voters in each of the six counties that make up the SLV.
We turned to Mark Obmascik, a freelance journalist and author based in Denver and an old friend and colleague from other places and spaces, to then review the survey results and present them to our readership.
Why we did it
One of the projects we had in mind when we launched Alamosa Citizen nearly a year ago was a baseline survey on quality-of-life issues related to living in the six counties of the San Luis Valley. We felt it would help us in our own understanding of who lives here, why they live here, and what residents think about the 21st-century version of the San Luis Valley.
Is their internet sufficient, how do they rate their schools, do they have enough money to meet an emergency? Do they recognize and have views on the changing landscape of the high-mountain desert we call home? How’s the wage scale, do people work more than one job and do they commute? In all we asked 48 questions.
When we first discussed the idea of a survey, the state of the Rio Grande and the fate of natural resources that fuel the agricultural industry and outdoor escapes which make the Valley world-famous was top of mind. So we focused a section of the survey on water, climate and the environment, and we asked the Rio Grande Water Conservation District to help underwrite the survey in this area given its own work and focus on recovering the Upper Rio Grande Basin. The RGWCD board contributed $5,000 to support the work and we’re grateful.
How we did it
Our first conversation was with pollster Craig Schroeder, who assisted Zepol Media Partners, which owns Alamosa Citizen, with a survey of San Luis Valley teens during work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley in 2016. Schroeder specializes in engagement of rural markets and has a particular knowledge of the San Luis Valley given his own work with communities like Antonito and others.
When designing a public opinion survey the question Craig will ask is: What do you want to know? What do you want to get out of the survey? We answered by saying we wanted a better understanding of how people see the trends around the natural resources of the Valley, or if they even recognize the Rio Grande as a declining water source? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t – we need to ask. We wanted to know how people felt about living in the Valley and if they like it here? Small towns, rural areas have a certain rap to them and we wanted to be able to measure Valley views and compare them to views of the larger, outside world.
The questions behind the survey were written and edited by Craig and Chris Lopez and MaryAnne Talbott, owners of Zepol Media Partners, LLC. Zepol Media Partners also purchased updated voter registration lists from each of the six counties and used the voter registration databases to randomly select individuals to receive the survey.
With the design of the survey complete and random list of individuals in each of the six counties selected, we sent out a postcard with a QR code and link to the survey and asked the individuals who received the postcard to take the survey. For doing so, we will reward the survey taker with one of our cool new SLV stickers. We sell them for $2 to support our work but we gave them away – or are sending them – to survey respondents.
With the data collected we turned to Obmascik for help in reporting and writing about the SLV Rural Poll itself. He was happy to oblige and we’re appreciative.
We are happy to make other presentations to any civic organizations or public bodies that would like a deeper dive into the numbers. We find all sorts of value in the collection of viewpoints and in the statistical data itself. We will use the survey to assist with our own decisions on the stories we want to tell and will try to tell about life in the San Luis Valley. We think the survey reveals a truth about the San Luis Valley and the overall quality of life that’s never before been documented.
The SLV Rural Poll is also indicative of the type of understanding we seek in our presentation of daily life in the San Luis Valley. It’s this type of deep and passionate understanding of the Valley that is possible thanks to the support of our paid members.
If you are not yet a member and if you can contribute a small amount to our work, we ask you to do so. We aspire to continue our work and to conduct a second annual SLV Rural Poll. It’s only possible through the individual support we receive.
MaryAnne and Chris
Thoughts? Send us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.