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Are ‘junk polls’ giving Erie a bad rep?

Two polls were released this week that gave Erie some unwanted negative exposure and caused a flurry of discussion on area media.

It turns out that some of the angst was derived from bad analysis by a national media poll watcher. The other poll cited looks to be a garbage statistic.

Here’s the back story: on Monday, the Gallup organization released some new data from its ongoing Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, comparing living in the city vs. the country. ABC News Director of Polling Gary Langer reported on the distinction and mixed into his report the 2009 findings of Gallup’s daily poll which has

the goal of creating an official statistic for the daily state of health and well-being in the United States…individuals and communities receive an overall wellbeing composite score and a score in each of six sub-indices including life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access.

The problem came in Langer’s fifth paragraph, where he listed the top five and bottom five cities in the overall index. He got the top five correct, but listed #168 to #172 as the bottom five, which included Erie at #170. Of course, if you are ranking 185 cities like the Gallup poll does, #170 is close but not really at the bottom. The actual bottom five cities in wellbeing are actually:

  • #181 – Flint, MI
  • #182 – Charleston, WV
  • #183 – Modesto, CA
  • #184 – Johnstown, PA
  • #185 – Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ

The problem is that the Langer story was quoted by WTOP.com, then by ErieBlogs.com (who got the ranking right) and by GlobalErie.com, causing lots of hand-wringing locally. Now being ranked #170 is nothing to be proud of, and we need to be a more healthy community, but there’s no way that Erie, PA should be at the bottom for things like access and emotional health.

The Gallup poll asks 46 questions of its participants each day about things like feelings, and I just have to wonder if the typical surly take on life in our community that some Erieites have took a toll on the poll. Sometimes when you talk to someone from Erie who hasn’t lived anywhere else, you experience their extreme lack of perspective; a typical “grass is always greener somewhere else” mentality.

Then there was the insurance.com poll, an obvious ploy to increase page views, which listed its Most Dangerous Cities for drivers. You would think, LA, Chicago, or Boston, right? No, its Baltimore, with Erie PA listed at #5!

Baltimore tops the list with 36.5 percent of drivers claiming a prior accident when receiving a car insurance comparison quote from insurance.com. The port city might not surprise many, but there were plenty of stunners in the Top 10, including Erie, Pa., and Des Moines, Iowa.

This is what’s called a “junk poll,” using very flimsy criteria to build a statistic. Considering we live in a town that hosts a top ten auto insurer which bears the city name, perhaps the only Erieites looking for comparative quotes on insurance.com are the one who have too many accidents to buy insurance from ERIE, State Farm or Allstate!!

Meanwhile, our local media give credibility to the junk poll, even generating their own poll to dispute the insurance.com one.

Considering the meager marketing budget our community has to promote itself, we need every break we can get from free media. Suspect polls and poor reporting doesn’t help.

4 Responses to Are ‘junk polls’ giving Erie a bad rep?

  1. Jim Stewart says:

    The problem is the overt lack of leadership and vision in Erie, always has been. ERIE people say mistake by the lake and believe it. Those who have been some where else and come back to Erie recognize the ENORMOUS potential but are stifled by the lack of vision and the constant ridiculousness of the politics.
    I really tried for the 30 years I was there. In TV, in promotions and at the Bayfront Center. Erie needs you and Brian Sheridan and Dan Geary (all of whom I respect greatly) and other like minded people to get off the sidelines (no offense) and begin a positive Erie PAC. Be willing to stand at City Council meetings and demand that the elected leadership demonstrate what they are doing to move the town forward; how are they coalescing the young minds at the numerous local universities; what high tech industries are they wooing; what art and culture are they supporting; what is Erie going to be the LEADER in? The new City logo while I am pleased that there is some recognition of Niagara as being significant is childish and does not portray the dynamic, creative and stoic nature of her people…go ye forth and preach the gospel Joel

  2. PR says:

    Jim, unfortunately Erie has NO REAL LEADERSHIP with any kind for foresight. Jobs are leaving Erie daily and no ones seems to care. The revitalization of downtown is a joke….let’s build condos on Griswold Plaza while the USPS is trying to sell the old post office there. Until the city leaders get their heads out of the sand, Erie will continue to deteriorate. All you need to do is look at all the good folks who have left Erie (yourself included). You can only beat your head against the wall for so long when you realize it just isn’t worth the effort any longer. Like I’ve said…will the last person leaving Erie please turn out the lights.

  3. Danny Lucas says:

    Uh, leave those lights on in Erie PA please!

    Erie scores low on “Well Being” per some of the Gallup articles.

    On the other extreme, Holland, Michigan and Boulder, Colorado fluctuate at the top on many of the poll data releases.

    This day, I wish to review three paragraphs of insight to Erie, PA, from an article on Boulder…..one of Gallup’s top two, if you will.

    1)
    “In the first three months of the year, 11 Colorado tech start-ups raised $57 million in venture capital, solidifying Boulder’s place among the country’s up-and-coming tech centers. ”

    This paragraph implies, and outright states, that there is money available for growth. Silicon Valley in California is losing out to the rarified atmosphere of Boulder.

    2)
    “Venture capital dollars are following the entrepreneurs to Colorado. From 2007 to 2009, venture capitalists invested $1.9 billion in 275 Colorado start-ups, up from $1.6 billion in 247 companies from 2004 to 2006, according to the National Venture Capital Association. The money is coming from Colorado venture firms — including the Foundry Group, a prominent firm in Boulder — as well as from Silicon Valley and New York. ”

    THIS paragraph is hugely intriguing, since the number of start ups is INCREASING, and the value of investments has increased in dollar figures by .3 BILLION, in a smalll 3 year period (contrasted with the prior three years there.
    This increase is in 2007 through 2009,…… and that is the period of subprime, elections for president, unknowns galore for future economic policy, the collapse of our economic system elsewhere, requiring extensive TARP bailouts, foreclosures running awry, and massive unemployment, to name only a few of the variables that would shake a venture capitalist’s boots. STILL, they came and invested.

    3)
    “The recipes of other cities for creating the next Silicon Valley usually leave out a few main ingredients. Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of the Creative Class” and studies why certain cities foster creativity, cites three crucial factors: talented people and a high quality of life that keeps them around, technological expertise, and an open-mindedness about new ways of doing things, which often comes from a strong counterculture.

    “Boulder has reached this beautiful sweet spot, where it has many advantages of a university town — tech and talent and openness — but without many of the costs and traffic and congestion that may disadvantage incumbent centers of innovation,” Mr. Florida said.

    This balance did not come about accidentally. Natural foods companies like Wild Oats Markets and Celestial Seasonings started here, …….”

    For those of you unfamiliar with Richard Florida and his “Rise of the Creative Class”, knowledge of that is available to you in Peter Panepento’s sidebar BlogRoll. Read up on what this guy thinks; retain the best ideas, and discard the lard.

    Crucial factors that put Boulder at or near the top for Mr. Gallup are noted by Mr. Florida in three areas:

    1) talented people — Bob Nardelli left town, so we are ok again.
    He remains busy puting Home Depot and Chrysler out of business since an adios to GE here.

    2)a high quality of life that keeps them around
    (we just discussed “culture” in a Global Erie forum, and the comments were negative from afar, but necessary locally. We must invest in culture to grow as Boulder has done.) It keeps your talent here.

    3) technological expertise, and an open-mindedness about new ways of doing things, which often comes from a strong counterculture.

    “Boulder has reached this beautiful sweet spot, where it has many advantages of a university town — tech and talent and openness — but without many of the costs and traffic and congestion that may disadvantage incumbent centers of innovation,”

    If THAT isn’t a description of Erie, PA today, I do not know what is.

    Instead of climbing mountains in Colorado, folks may run or walk at Presque Isle during lunch hour, or take advantage of the FIVE new Snap Fitness locations that grew recently in our area….unannounced for the most part, and growing by word of mouth.

    Weekends offer a jaunt to Peak N Peek to golf, gaze, or scoot the hills leading into the Appalachian chain (Erie is at the base of that).

    [I brought a friend to town from Eastern PA and he looked at the Lake and exclaimed in awe: "I'd love to open a (scuba) Dive Shop here!]

    Our Universities need to synchronize their offerings so as not to duplicate, giving the town a bigger bang for the buck.
    We must manufacture and export students, of very high quality; then, later utilize the best of these people in research at the universities that birthed them in their careers.

    We have an inside track to Homeland Security and the Tech required for that to grow properly, through our contact with Tom Ridge. This is largely ignored, and we need to offer greater language departments (Mandarin, Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, and a host from African states).
    Tom’s Rolodex would come in handy for this.

    Snow is not a factor in Boulder growth; they measure annual totals in feet as does Erie, but they lack a Great Lake and are land locked.
    Translation? We got more to offer than the top spot, yet we are not top.

    Clearly, what venture capitalists desire is noted in the article.
    And just as clearly, we have these things in spades to offer tech startups and more.
    Further, our District of Columbia contacts far exceed Boulder’s.

    Can we not work the seniority system as Bob Byrd did for his West Virginia….and he move the CIA to his state?

    Then,…. let us move Homeland Security training and operations OUT of risk in D.C., and into a prime location known as Erie, PA.

    Our local immigration embracement would allow folks whose native tongue would allow huge growth in Homeland Security, as they work in conjunction with our universities to teach their languages, and apply them to computer/sattelite pickup of key verses or words that indicate future trouble in Homeland Security.

    We have concentrated far too long on why things can NOT be done, and what we lack, instead of our chief skills, opportunities, and willingness to rise to the top in Well Being, as Kansius did in Pepsi Refresh recently…..going from spot number 100 to spot number 1 and win the award they deserved.

    Full article on Boulder, Co success is here;
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/business/14boulder.html?src=me&ref=general

    Ps. Natural Foods started in Boulder per the article.
    On April 27, 2010, Global Erie added a writer on “Profit and Loss” using pretty much the same theme…..”Naturally Yours”.
    Get Mary Birdsong’s face on the blogroll at GlobalErie, and encourage her posts to attract venture capitalists in that vein, as Boulder has done.

    Mary has been around this blog three weeks, posted at least twice, and does not even exist there yet.
    We can do better in Erie, by beginning better at Global Erie, for starters.

    There has been a six month or longer stagnancy in our Global outreach blog, and a robust daily posting by all writers is in order. That is how it began; that is how it grew.
    To influence this community, a return to David Amburg type articles, and an eclectic array of everything else is in order at Global once again.

    The site is lean on spiritual oriented blogs as well, and when a person is centered within, they become satisfied on the outside.
    We can do better….perhaps even pulling a Kansius and go from last place to first place in a sole month.

    A link to State Business Tax Climate Rankings makes another one-view commentor, Jim, out of the loop too. Colorado is 13, we are 22 of 50 states in this.
    It is a well hidden secret, eh?
    Look at all four years covered (read right to left to review growth and improvement (or lack):
    http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/22661.html

    We not only accept polls that make us look bad, and refuse to refute them, we fail to maximize polls that reflect well on us.

    Indeed, there has been no follow-up campaign on the Pepsi Refresh win to date, yet we were the first place winner there, early in the year long campaign.
    Why no more entries in all categories and try to expand on the win???

  4. CRANK says:

    I would argue that junk polls aren’t giving Erie a bad rap, they are simply reflecting Erie’s reputation, right or perceived. A poll is a poll, dependent upon a response to a question. Whether the question makes sense or not, the result depends upon the answer given. And in these “junk polls” the answers are the answers. The question is how do you change them? Certainly not by burying your head in the sand and accepting the business as normal mentality that is so often what happens. Think, for example, the continuity of response to all of the businesses that have closed down, or moved out of town. Anything different in any of them? The response in all of those cases reminds me of a professional mourner at a funeral. A good act, but of questionable sincerity.

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