Letter at length, September 4

Meals tax survey was scientific, unbiased

Thank you for the article on the survey that was conducted Monday night on restaurant usage (see Sept. 2 "Opponents: Millions lost on meals tax"). I take exception to Ashland Finance Director Lee Tuneberg's statement that the survey was "unscientific." I worked 14 years for Colorado Market Research in Denver and conducted tens of thousands of surveys, so I know a little bit about how the system works. I am not a neophyte in this business.

This is the third survey Oregon Market Research has conducted. The latest was in 1996, during the race for Ashland's mayor. By coincidence, the Tidings had written a story in October about how another market research firm had done a survey showing that Cathy Golden had a 22-point lead over Alan DeBoer.

I called the Tidings and informed them that my own survey showed the race to be a dead heat. Well, guess what? Cathy Golden won by less than 1 percent, and I was vindicated.

The survey conducted on Aug. 31 was as scientific as you can get. Callers picked a numbered slip of paper out of a box, which corresponded to one of the 428 pages in the phone book. They alternated their calls between the three columns on that page and also within the columns. Once they reached the end of the column (or got four completed responses), they went back to the box for a new page number. It was totally random.

I was impressed by the professional manner of the 11 callers. They would have been stars at the phone bank of Colorado Market Research. They were also told before the survey that follow-up calls for verification of their results would be conducted, and that if even one result didn't pan out, their entire sample would be discarded.

Monitoring the callers all night, I can state categorically that this survey was done professionally in an unbiased manner, and it selected respondents randomly and scientifically. Anyone who states otherwise is not correct.

Curtis Hayden

President, Oregon Market Research

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