Questions and Answers about the


Greater New Orleans Community Survey


(You can take the survey here)


Prepared by Prof. Rick Weil

Department of Sociology

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge



Why is this survey being done?  What will it be used for?


The survey is being done to understand how the Greater New Orleans community is recovering from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.  The survey will help community leaders and organizations help community members more effectively.  The survey is also being done for scholarly, University research.


Will my answers be confidential, and will my privacy be protected?


Yes on both counts.


Will the survey be used for fund raising or marketing?  Will lists or results be sold or given to fund raising or marketing organizations?


No on all counts.


How long will it take me to complete the survey?


It should take about 15-20 minutes, depending on how long you dwell on the questions.  Because it’s on the web, you can do it when it’s convenient for you.


Why is the survey that long?


This is a “baseline” survey.  It is meant to establish a full picture of how our community is doing.  We hope to do follow-up surveys later.  With a good baseline, future surveys can be shorter.


Some of the questions seem personal, and I don’t want to answer them.  Can I still participate in the survey if I don’t answer some of the questions?


Absolutely.  If there is any question you don’t want to answer, just skip it, and go on to the next question.


However, please keep in mind that it will help us if you do answer the questions. 


We are mainly interested in understanding how leaders can best serve community needs, not in obtaining confidential information about anyone.  In fact, we go to great lengths to not find out how any identifiable person answered any question.  We are doing everything possible to assure privacy and confidentiality, and we are experienced in doing so.


How do you protect my privacy and confidentiality?


The most important thing is that we want to protect it.  We do so in several ways:


  1. We do not ask your name.
  2. We will not report or publish results in a way that any one person’s answers can be seen.  Most results will be reported as percentages or correlations.
  3. We follow sound security practices in handling data, and are experienced in doing so.
  4. We will not sell or share data with third parties, especially not for fund-raising or marketing.  We will follow well-established scholarly practices for permitting University researchers to re-analyze the data after a period of time has passed – but only after all personally-identifying information is removed from the data, and only with their promise not to further disseminate data.


Why do you ask those last questions about letters of my mother’s name, and my birthday?  Don’t those compromise my privacy? 


No, they don’t compromise privacy.  We ask for particles of information that, as far as we know, cannot be reconstructed to identify anyone.  And as far as we know, they are not used anywhere else that could be used to identify anyone.  We are asking things that are easy to remember, but hard to violate privacy with. 


So why do we ask them?  They will let us measure trends in future surveys, without asking anyone’s identity.  Then, we can see how people’s evaluations, plans, and opinions change, as circumstances change.


We will not let this information compromise privacy because we will use it only to organize the data, and will then remove it from the data, and we will not report it in any way.


Why do you ask where I lived when the hurricane hit?  Doesn’t that compromise my privacy?


Many important things are “geographical.”  The storm affected different areas differently; and different parts of town differ in affordability, convenience, crime rates, and many other ways.  Location provides an important backdrop to understanding people’s decisions to return and rebuild, and thus in efforts to help.


We will not let location information compromise privacy because we will remove it from anything that would identify any particular person.


I understand why you have asked questions about the hurricane and recovery, but there are other questions that do not seem related to this.  Why are they on there?


There are two kinds of question that are important, even though they might not immediately seem related to the hurricane and recovery.


  1. We want to know about community- and social support.  Community leaders need to make limited resources count.  With that in mind, we have included a number of standard questions about social or community involvement that will help them evaluate how to use existing resources most effectively or if they will need to restructure among those resources.


  1. We ask several “demographic” questions about age, gender, education, income, family structure, political preferences, and the like.  We’re actually less interested in knowing about them, than in “filtering them out.”  They help us answer the “yes but” questions, like, “…Of course this community does this or that.  They can/can’t afford to… They’re so liberal/conservative that they do this or that…” and so on.  If we take these “demographic” factors into account, we can see the net importance of other things like fear of future storms, family support, etc.


I do not need help myself.  Why should I participate in the survey?


Because it will help your community.  Resources are limited, and leaders need to find out how to use them as efficiently as possible.  Knowing how many people do not need help is just the counterpart to knowing how many do.


I have moved away from New Orleans and don’t plan to move back.  Why should I participate in the survey?


To help the New Orleans community.  If we only know why people have decided to stay, but not why they have decided to leave, we can not weigh the importance of their reasons.  Let your participation be a farewell gift to a community that very much wants to survive and thrive.


You have asked for all adult members of my household (age 18 and over) to complete the survey.  Why?  I thought surveys usually interviewed just one person per household.


That’s true, but we recognize that people disagree within households.  Just think of opinions within your own family!  Besides, certain household members are usually more likely to answer surveys, thus skewing the results.  This will help make results more accurate.


You ask me to contact family and friends to take the survey.  Doesn’t this compromise the representativeness or “randomness” of the sample?


Ordinarily, it would compromise the sample.  But the situation in Greater New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina is not ordinary, and ordinary methods of survey research don’t work.  If they did, imagine how many survey results you would see.  But they don’t, and you don’t.


Our method is to interview a good number of people from as many communities and population groups as we can, and then to adjust or “weight” these segments back to their “true” sizes, according to the last reliable census estimates.  This method is called “quota sampling.”  It’s true that quota sampling is usually considered to be inferior to “random” or “probability” sampling.  However, (a) it is probably the best that can be done in today’s New Orleans, and (b) “random” sampling in practice has become so compromised by many factors, that it doesn’t differ from “quota” sampling by as much as it is said to in theory.


Will I be able to see the results of the survey?


Yes.  We will prepare a report, and you’ll be able to get it by internet.  And as we said, percentaged results will not reveal how any individual person answered any question.



We ask that each adult member of your household, age 18 and older, take the survey.  When you have taken it, please ask other adult members of your household to also take it.


Please ask family and friends from your New Orleans neighborhood or church community (age 18 and older) to take this survey.  If they need help taking it, please consider offering to help them.  A good response to the survey will improve its accuracy and help community leaders understand community’s needs. 


Please go here to take the survey.