Earlier this week, MinnPost obtained a copy of a report about the attitudes of five focus groups on the proposed new Vikings stadium.
The sessions were conducted by a survey research firm that was hired by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.
Because the Commission has been advocating for a new Vikings stadium, some MinnPost readers correctly expressed skepticism that the direction of the focus group leaders may have been biased. After all, the Sports Facilities Commission’s executive director, Bill Lester, and chairman, Roy Terwilliger, have been lobbying at the Capitol for a new $800 million (or so) domed stadium.
Because MinnPost always listens to its reader/users — or, at least, most times does! — we filed a Data Practices Act request Wednesday with the Commission, and this morning obtained the focus group guidelines that were used. See that PDF here.
We also learned that the operation cost the Commission $32,500. (By the way, the bulk of the Commission’s coffers is funded via revenues generated by the Vikings, so that $32,500 fee is, arguably, being paid for by the Vikings.) See that contract here.
The focus group instrument seems to be relatively straightforward. In the draft we obtained, there are some sections — clearly biased — that are highlighted in yellow. Executive director Lester told us this morning that those sections were deleted from the discussion because he found them to be “too leading.”
For instance, in describing the Metrodome, the focus group leader was originally to have told the participants: “The current building is very noisy, not very energy efficient, and the roof frequently leaks.”
Said Lester: “That was too leading or inaccurate. We took them out.”
Lester said he was skeptical of the process because, in some ways, the participants are self-selected. Momentum Analysis sought a demographic cross-section of the state, but only people somewhat motivated to participate were in the groups, of course.
See the PDF here of the solicitation script for participants.
As Momentum Analysis President Margie Omero wrote about the value of focus group results: “Focus groups are qualitative in nature, and so results are not suited for percentages or statistical testing. These focus groups allowed us to examine the words and phrases participants use when discussing this topic, the depth and breadth of their prior knowledge, and the specific information to which they react. Only a valid survey produces results projectable onto the population at large.”
Still, as her report showed, there was a high level of interest in the stadium issue, and a certain sense that it was inevitable that a stadium would get built. Lester was surprised by that.
Take a read of the full document (PDF) yourself, and see what you think.