The Port Dalhousie Conservancy
Committed to the Preservation and Enhancement of Port Dalhousie's Cultural, Natural and Built Heritage
Citizens' Opinion Poll Report for PROUD Port Dalhousie
POLL FROM THE BROCK MBA BUSINESS CONSULTING SERVICE
NOTE: This survey was conducted regarding the first tower proposal. Most results are still applicable and the two applications are very similar with the major difference being that the tower is now 207 ft. high instead of 326 ft.
2. Executive Summary
The main purpose of the current public opinion poll was to collect reactions of a large and representative sample of St. Catharines citizens to a proposed property development in the commercial core of Port Dalhousie. This proposed development calls for the construction of a tower, which is currently planned to be approximately 30 storeys in height. The sample collected consists of 1,200 St. Catharines residences, all of voting age. This sample, more specifically, was comprised of 200 responses from each of the 6 municipal wards, which makes up the city. All respondents were contacted by phone in a random manner, and responded to one question (the target question), which can be found in Appendix A. Analysis of the results indicates that approximately 77% of St. Catharines residents are opposed to the development proposal as it stands. Results also show that the level of support (or level of opposition) for the proposal varies significantly as a function of municipal ward. The ward most in favour of the proposal is Merritton Ward with 32% of the residents polled in that ward in favour of the proposal (68% opposed). The ward most opposed to the development, surprisingly, is St. Patrick ’s, with only 17% of residents polled in favour of the proposal (83% opposed). Not surprising are the results from Port Dalhousie Ward, with 82.5% opposed to the proposal. In all, the data indicate that St. Catharines residents are not in favour of the Port tower development proposal.
The current public opinion survey was commissioned by PROUD Port Dalhousie, which is a heritage group concerned with protecting the heritage designation of Port Dalhousie, as well as the historical buildings within that area of the city.
The main purpose of this study is to ascertain how the citizens of St. Catharines feel about a development proposal being considered by the city for the commercial core of Port Dalhousie. The relevant information regarding this proposal is as follows. The development is slated to replace the area in the commercial core of Port, which is currently occupied by “My Cottage Patio and Bar”, The Port Mansion, and other various smaller businesses. Currently, the development plans call for approximately 36 thousand square feet of commercial space, as well as a hotel and approximately 80 condominium units. The condominiums are to be part of a tower, which is estimated to be approximately 30 storeys in height.
It is logical that, PROUD Port Dalhousie (“PROUD”), being primarily a heritage group, would be opposed to this development. However, to gauge how strongly the community felt about the development, PROUD has already conducted its own extensive survey of Port residents as well as an informal city-wide survey The informal city-wide survey had a relatively small sample size (approximately 100 participants). Obviously, PROUD is an interested party in the decision on the proposal, so any survey done by that group’s members would be drawn into question on the basis of possible bias. It should also be noted that the results of their previous surveys indicated that the majority of people surveyed were not in favour of the development proposal.
The limitations of the previous studies reduced the persuasive power of the surveys. It is for this reason that the current opinion survey was conducted. To get a true, representative read of how favourably disposed the citizens of all areas of St. Catharines are to the development proposal, a larger more empirically valid and independent survey of city residents was carried out. This survey is neither geographically limited (data gathered from all municipal wards within St. Catharines), nor is its sampling biased in any systematic way. Indeed, the sampling procedure was designed to gather a representative sample, which would be more valid when generalizing the results of the survey to the population of all St. Catharines residents. Additionally, the sample size (n = 1,200) of this project was significantly more substantial than any previous citywide surveys conducted on the issue.
The sample consisted of 1,200 St. Catharines citizens, all of which are voting age. More specifically, there are 200 participants from each of the six municipal wards, which constitute the city of St. Catharines.
The sample was derived from the 2000 municipal voter lists, which were the most recent lists available under the new privacy legislation. Given that these documents were in the library Special Collections section and could not be removed from the library, photocopies of an adequate number of randomly selected pages from each ward were made. Each page in the voter lists contained approximately 30 names. As such 35 randomly selected pages from each ward list were photocopied and constituted the basis for collecting the data. Note that with an average of 30 people per page and a sample of 35 pages, 1,050 people from each ward were potential subjects. From these approximately 1,050 people per ward, random names were selected, and if the addresses in the voter list was identical to the one located in a current edition of the phone book (to confirm which ward the data was coming from), the person was contacted by phone and asked to participate in the survey. This process was continued until 200 responses to the target question (see Appendix A), per ward, were obtained.
The actual phone script read to potential participants can be found in Appendix A. All participants were read the same script and therefore asked the same question (again, see Appendix A). Data collectors, who consisted of two MBA Business Consultants and two undergraduate business students, recorded three pieces of information for each participant who agreed to participate in the survey. The data collectors recorded the respondent’s phone number, the ward they reside in, and finally, the answer to the target question. The phone numbers were recorded for the purposes of verifying that the data collectors did indeed call residents, and did not simply create the data. For each data collector (there were four) 10-15 randomly selected participants were contacted to verify that they had indeed participated in the survey. All respondents contacted for this reason verified that they had indeed participated in the study.
Only the information about ward location and question response was entered into SPSS v.13.0, which is the most recent version of a well known, and respected, statistical analysis software program. Phone numbers were not entered into the spreadsheet for two reasons. First, there is no analysis that can be done on that data, so it would be waste of time to enter it into the software. Secondly, and more importantly, the data was not entered to protect the identities of the respondents. The lists containing the phone numbers were destroyed to protect the identity of respondents. As with all surveys of this nature, anonymity and privacy are important to encourage a truthful response to the target question.
Taken as a whole, the data collected can reasonably be assumed, due to sample size and even geographic spread, to be a representative sample of the entire city of St. Catharines. Of the 1,200 residents contacted, 919 (76.6%) were opposed to the proposal and 281 (23.4%) were in favour of the proposal (see Appendix B). From this data, it was determined that there s a 99% probability (99 times out of 100) that the true (city parameter) level of opposition to the proposal in question, is between 73.41% and 79.69% for the entire city of St. Catharines.
Although there were significant differences in the level of opposition to the proposal in question from one ward to another (X2 (df = 5) = 25.95, p < .01), the lowest level of opposition was 68% in the Merritton Ward. The highest level of opposition came from St. Patrick ’s Ward, with 83% opposed to the proposal in its current form. A close second in terms of opposition, not surprisingly, is Port Dalhousie Ward, with 82.5% opposed to the development in its current form. For the sake of brevity, the results by ward are summarized in Figure 1.1 below (pg. 8). The figure contains how many residents responded, “Yes” and how many responded “No” in actual numbers, as well as percentages. As well, the figure presents a range that has a 95% probability (19 times out of 20) of containing the true (ward parameter) level of opposition in the ward for the proposal in its current form. Further information on statistical analysis can be found in Appendix C.
The data presented below indicate that in every ward there is a greater than 95% chance that the majority of residents are opposed to the proposal in its current form. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals were selected over 99% intervals because with the smaller sample size, the intervals are naturally larger as estimates would be less representative of the population. Since using too large of an interval in the analysis makes interpretation more difficult, the smaller interval for results reported by, was chosen.
Figure 1.1 – Results by Ward
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
The results of this survey seem to be clear. The people of St. Catharines, and particularly those who live in the municipal wards of Port Dalhousie and St. PatrickGeorge’s, do not approve of the proposal in question, at this time and in its current form. As such, it does not seem prudent for the project to be approved at the current time. It would be wise to further investigate the issue, to determine what exact aspects of the proposed development the public does not agree with. Given the question posed to respondents (see Appendix A), there seems to be two possible issues readily apparent. The first such issue that may affect peoples’ opinion is the location. It could be that the public has no problem with a development containing a tower component; they just do not want one in that part of the city (commercial core of Port). The other issue is the tower component. The public may wish there to be new development projects in the commercial core of Port, but do not want a tower of 30 storeys in height as part of it. The public may not approve of a tower component at all for that matter. In either case, the results clearly show that the proposal in its current form does not have public support.
In terms of other relevant issues, there are several possible limitations in the current study, which should be addressed. The first has to do with the sampling procedure. Given that the initial pool of applicants was generated from the 2000 municipal voters list, several groups of residents had no chance of being polled. These groups mainly include those who have moved permanently into the city since 2000, a large portion of the student population, and residents who moved within the city between 2000 and 2005. While this does theoretically pose a problem with generalization of this study’s findings to the population, practically speaking the impact of these omissions is minimal to insignificant. The number of people who have moved into the city and within the city is, compared to the entire population of the city, likely very small. St. Catharines and the surrounding area have had a very stable population (low % of population growth) over the last several years. The growth rate for St. Catharines, for example, from 1996 to 2001 was -1.3% (Statistics Canada). So, the omission of new residents would not likely bring the results of this opinion poll into question. Given that the student population was underrepresented, and the fact that the development is proposed for the property currently occupied by a popular bar, it is likely that the under representation of this demographic group would have biased results towards the project and not away from it, if it would have had any significant effect at all. In all then, the use of the 2000 voter list as a basis for collecting the sample should not be considered a major methodological problem. In fact, the best way to sample from a general community sample is through the most currently available voter list, as all residents of voting age are included in the list.
Another potential problem with the current research centers on the equal size of samples taken from each ward. It is true that the population from ward to ward is not identical, and that taking samples of equal sizes from each ward would proportionally over represent certain wards. The impact of this could have two effects; if wards less favourably disposed to the proposal were over represented then it would bias the results against the proposal. However, the opposite is true as well. If wards more favourably disposed to the proposal are over represented then the results would be biased in that direction. However, the degree of bias is proportional to the disparity in population between wards. So if the differences in population between wards were minimal, as is likely the case, then any bias would be negligible. As such, this is not a significant threat to the integrity of the results.
Since all major methodological concerns over the study have been addressed, and the results still retain their integrity, the interpretation of the data outlined above stands. Public opinion is currently against the development proposal in question, in its current form.
Changes to the proposal may, and probably will, shift public opinion. To increase public approval it is necessary to alter the proposal in a way that pleases the public. To ascertain this, as previously mentioned above, further research is warranted. Finally, should the proposal be altered, it is recommended that another public opinion poll be carried out to reassess public opinion.
7. Appendix A
Hello, my name is __________________, and I am calling on behalf of the Brock Consulting Service. We are conducting a single question survey regarding a development proposal in the commercial core of Port Dalhousie. Would you like to participate in this quick survey?
If they respond No – Thank you for your time, have a nice day.
If they respond Yes – Thank you for you participation. The question is:
"A development project including a condominium tower of about 30 storeys has been proposed for the commercial core of Port Dalhousie. Are you in favour of this proposal, Yes or No?"
Thank you once again for your participation, please have a nice day.
8. Appendix B
Bar Graph of Responses (Entire Sample)
9. Appendix C
Consolidated Frequencies Table, with Percentages