July 27, 2022

Recent Survey Distributed By PCRD Has Problematic Issues

To the Editor: 

Last week, a letter to the Town Topics addressed a survey that has been distributed recently by the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD), and the way that it has been received in parts of the community [“PCRD Launches Princeton-Wide Survey Regarding Redevelopment Projects in Town,” Mailbox, July 20]. 

The survey’s goal, according to the letter, is to “provide robust objective data,” on proposed development projects and the way that decisions are being made on behalf of Princeton. 

I received the survey from a friend who forwarded it, with its introductory email, because she thought I would be interested in the methodology used. My business relies heavily on survey data, so it is a realm that I’m familiar with. 

Two things stood out immediately as problematic: First, the survey was described as hosted by “SurveyMonkey, one of the largest market research firms in the US.” While SurveyMonkey does, on occasion conduct and analyze its own surveys, it is almost always used as a survey tool, as in this case, where the survey was designed and will be interpreted by PCRD, with no research or analysis from the company. 

The more problematic issue is the claim that the survey was administered to a “carefully drawn” sample, which is simply not possible for two reasons: first, the link to the survey was readily accessible to anyone who received the email so could be, and was, forwarded to others; second, the survey was anonymous, which means that there is no way to know who responded and was included in the sample. 

Last week’s Town Topics letter expressed some incredulity that people have questioned the legitimacy of the survey. It’s difficult to imagine how the survey results can be contextualized in such a way that it can be taken as valid. 

Meg Davis
Shadybrook Lane