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Have you joined Metro’s “Opt In” opinion panel yet?

Posted by on March 2nd, 2011 at 12:12 pm

In case you haven’t heard, Metro has launched a new way to gauge public opinion. It’s called Opt In and they liken it to an “online opinion panel.” Once enough people have signed up, they’ll use the citizen panel to gauge feedback on important issues facing the region: things like how to set transportation investment priorities.

Since its launch in January, about 2,000 people have signed up. Metro is making a big push to reach 10,000 by the end of this year because that’s the number they need for the responses to be statistically significant.

“… we are hoping to use this tool to help inform how we prioritize regional biking and walking routes.”
— Lake McTighe, Metro

Underscoring the need for more people to sign up, Metro announced today that so far, the people that have signed up are, “lacking in diversity.”

Here are some numbers from Metro:

  • Ninety-five percent of the participants are white. (“… Less than 100 blacks and Hispanics signed up for the panel,” said a Metro news story.)
  • Seventy percent are Democrats, six percent are Republican.
  • Only 23 percent hail from Clackamas or Washington counties (which collectively have 56 percent of Metro’s constituency).
  • Less than 2 percent of the participants so far are under the age of 25.

Metro says they plan to embark on a targeted outreach effort toward these underrepresented groups in hopes of boosting their sign-ups.

Another thing to consider is that some groups have rallied their members to join the panel. Case in point is the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland. Metro says they’ve been “vigilant” about getting their membership to sign up. Has your organization been as vigilant?

Lake McTighe, who manages Metro Active Transportation Partnership, says the tool will be an essential avenue to understand what the public thinks. “For example,” she says, “we are hoping to use this tool to help inform how we prioritize regional biking and walking routes for development in our upcoming Regional Active Transportation Action Plan.”

As if all the above wasn’t enough reason to join, they’re giving away $50 cash gift cards to five lucky folks who sign up by March 15th.

Check out OptInPanel.org to sign up and learn more.

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Comments
  • Esther March 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Nice. Sending it out to my friends now. one thing I notice though, is that the race/ethnicity page lacks an option for people of Middle Eastern descent/ethnicities. I am sending this to Egyptian, Iranian and Lebanese friends in two counties, but that doesn’t help Metro’s numbers on ethnic diversity :-/

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  • q`Tzal March 2, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Sign up now:
    we know that the teabaggers and anti-cyclists will mobilize angry hordes through social media to get online polls and surveys flooded with their opinion.
    All we can do is make sure our voices are heard in turn.

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    • Dave Thomson March 2, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      Unlike pro-cyclists who are mobilized by sites like Bike Portland :-)

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      • q`Tzal March 2, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        Go and take a look at anti-cycle mentality at RestoreHolgate.com and multiply that by every pig headed “YOU’RE IN MY WAY!!! GET ON THE !@#!@#$% SIDEWALK!!!” driver out there with their own axe to grind.

        They may not all have the motivation to set up their own bike hate website but the simple political fact of the matter is that sharing and kindness do not motivate people to participate in the political process as much as fear and hate.
        These lead to the dark side:) and this we must fight.

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  • Alex Reed March 2, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Signed up too. This is absolutely, positively not a random sample. I think it’s pretty silly to be talking about statistical significance when you have a clearly biased sample.
    I assume that they’ll re-weight the sample to better reflect the opinions of any under-represented groups. I guess that’s what phone surveys (like political polls) do. But at least phone surveys have a *chance* of reaching most people, while this will basically only reach the groups that happen to find out about it.

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  • Jack March 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Diversity seems like an invalid goal to be aiming for. I think what they’d want is a fair representation of the population.

    The 70% Dem. vs. 6% Rep is interesting. Makes me wonder what kind of advertising Metro is doing.

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    • black dude on bicycle March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      correct, since the counties that metro represents aren’t that diverse, having a diverse group on the council would mean that the minorities groups and their special interests’ would be overly represented.

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    • q`Tzal March 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Alex Reed
      This is absolutely, positively not a random sample. I think it’s pretty silly to be talking about statistical significance when you have a clearly biased sample.

      Jack
      Diversity seems like an invalid goal to be aiming for. I think what they’d want is a fair representation of the population.
      The 70% Dem. vs. 6% Rep is interesting. Makes me wonder what kind of advertising Metro is doing.

      Any sample of internet savvy or social network connected individuals will naturally not include those who can’t afford full time internet connectivity, are not part of the Facebook social scene or are just afraid of the internet in general. I could make unbiased suppositions about old people being under-represented but I think that ultimately this will work out in the end.
      Representative Democracy is inhreantly non-responsive to the direct voice of the public. The US Constitution, written as it was before the mere concept of near instantaneous communication, is not set up to deal with the instant feedback that we are capable of now.

      While OptIn is one small step towards a fully inclusive democratic process where everyone can have a voice on every issue the #1 democratic bias will continue to be the major factor: apathy.
      As in voter apathy.
      If everyone was “jacked in” to a collective non-controlling conciousnos, with Borg-like efficiency, and a vote was sent out asking for a ruling on street shrubs can we really expect many to care? How about a vote on national tax policy? More people would be interested but few would understand the complexities and thus become reliant on the desicions of others form their own opinons.
      The democratic process will continue to be dominated by those who are motivated to make changes and those who are motivated to make sure things never change.

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  • El Biciclero March 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Heh. Yeah, it looks like a bunch of rich, college-educated white folks have signed up so far. Isn’t that who’s running things already?

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    • q`Tzal March 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      I’m an overweight, bald, white male … how long do I have to wait before I get inducted in to The Machine or become The Man?
      Having to work for a living is soooo draining.
      /sarcasm
      /satire
      /laughing at the insanity

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  • Michael M. March 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    My guess is that a big part of the lack of diversity is that Portland residents generally care more about Metro than either Clackamas or Washington Ct. residents. According to the most recent census data, Washington Ct. now has a lower percentage of non-Latino whites than Multnomah Ct. Hillsboro’s population of African Americans doubled while Portland’s percentage of the African American population in Oregon dropped from 65% to 55%. None of this is too surprising given the housing and land-use policies the City of Portland has pursued for the past several years, designed to encourage gentrification, minimize affordable housing, and push the poorer Portland residents out of the city. Basically, it’s all working according to plan.

    Hopefully, having a Metro Council President from Hillsboro will raise Metro’s profile in Washington Ct. and engage the citizenry of the region’s only area that is actually becoming more diverse.

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  • J_R March 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    It’s going to be virtually impossible for any group that is self selected to achieve a statistically valid cross-section of the region’s population. Ever heard the words “random sample?”

    I’ll sign up anyway, even though it will skew things in the same way that’s already been reported.

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  • dan March 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    well, I joined, but when I put my zip in (Clackamas Co) the survey abruptly ended. Seems odd, if they’re hoping for more participation from that county.

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  • dwainedibbly March 2, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Can I help Metro out & lie about my demographics when I sign up?

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  • GlowBoy March 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Echoing the above this inherently CANNOT be even close to a statistically significant sample, even if Metro gets 100,000 folks and not 10,000.

    Right now bikeportland.org is sending lots of folks their way; even though we’re right ;), we are not representative of the general population.

    Once the AM talk show hosts and other rightie organizations get wind of this, they’ll flood it.

    So you’ll end up with a “panel” dominated by polar opponents, and the more middle-of-the-road folks will be underrepresented.

    And you’re darn right I signed up.

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