The State of the State Survey: Nevada (the Survey) is a product of the faculty and students associated with the Public Affairs Ph.D. program of the School of Environmental and Public Affairs within the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas . The Survey fosters the Program’s mission to:
“… serve as the nexus between the academic community and the world of service and practice in the private, non-profit, and public sectors.”
Thus, the primary purpose of the Survey is to provide the general public and policymakers information on what people in Nevada are thinking concerning important issues facing Nevada. Another function for the survey is to provide data for academic research including research on survey methodology. Equally important, the survey was conducted to provide doctoral students first-hand experience in designing and implementing a survey.
Consistent with the goal of conducting research on survey methods and training students, the State of the State Survey: Nevada has a number of unique features that are explained in sections below.
Who was surveyed?
A decision was made to conduct the survey using a population of registered voters in the state of Nevada. Voter registration lists provide a wealth of information that enables the implementation of a more manageable set of survey procedures and allows for an evaluation verification of the final data set. More detailed information about the sample and the sample procedures are provided later.
How was the survey conducted?
In order to provide students training on survey methodologies and to test the efficacy of different survey procedures two mail surveys with a corresponding internet version were implemented.
Both mail surveys used the exact same questionnaire, but one survey went into the field with a much more impersonal style than the second. For example, the more impersonal survey was sent using non-profit mail and no signature from the principal investigator, while the other mail questionnaire used first class postage and was signed by the principal investigator. In survey research there has been a debate over the efficacy of the exact approach to obtain a sufficiently large enough set of returned questionnaires and a high enough response rate to reduce survey error. To both teach and test the effects of different mail survey approaches, one survey used a sample of 6,000 registered voters. That sample was sent the survey only one-time (it did have a follow-up postcard one week after the survey was mailed reminding and thanking people – – hereafter referred to as the 6,000 sample survey).
The second mail survey was sent to all of the 2o14 SOSS respondents, and was conducted using a rather typical set of procedures that included an initial mailing with the questionnaire, a postcard, a third and fourth mailing to those who had not responded which included another questionnaire.
It should be noted that for both the one-time sample of 6,000 and the four-time approach for 2014 respondents, respondents were given the option of logging into a website that had the questionnaire, enter a special code, and complete the questionnaire.
The two different procedures, the one-time approach and the four-time procedure, resulted, as expected, with different response rates.
Topics in the Questionnaire
The major purpose of the survey was to understand what registered voters think about important issues confronting Nevada. To determine the topics to be covered in the survey, students involved in the development of the questionnaire studied statewide surveys conducted at other universities as well as developing their own topics, and questions. The students, as a group, discussed the potential topics and, as a class, determined the relevant topics. As a result, 102 questions were constructed for an eight-page questionnaire. The following broad topical areas have at least one question:
- Nevada as a place to live
- Other Policy Issues
The exact wording of the questions and format of the questionnaire is presented here. Most of the questions were the same from the 2014 version, and it is expected many questions will be repeatedly used in future State of the State Survey: Nevada surveys while other topics will be added or deleted as deemed appropriate. It should be noted that for the readers’ ease of interpretation some of the responses are recoded while other response categories are combined.
There were twelve demographic questions, but three important elements were not included on the questionnaire because they were obtained from the voters list: the age of the respondent, the party identification and place of residents. We have eliminated any record of place of residence from the data set to prevent any identification of the respondent. However, we did use residence to place individuals into one of three categories: Clark County, Washoe County, and the Rest of the State.
As noted previously, all three surveys were drawn from a list of registered voters – – thus the population consisted of Nevadan citizens over the age of 18. The voter registration lists were obtained from the Nevada Secretary of State’s website as well as from the Clark County Election Department. For all three samples, stratified samples were constructed reflecting the percentage of voters from each of the three sections of the state.