The questionnaires were completed during the Carpenter Investments exhibition of 26th - 28th June 2008 at West Kirby Concourse. These have been released by Wirral Council in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The questionnaires (583 in total) have been available for viewing since 27 October 2008 in West Kirby One Stop Shop, and at Wallasey Town Hall.
The questionnaire contained three main questions with tick boxes and space for written comments. The form is shown in Appendix 5. This Appendix deals with analysis question 1. Other, more general concerns are detailed in Appendix 3.
Design of question 1
The first question posed was "Do you broadly support the proposals for a new sailing school and a boutique hotel at the marine lake?". An excerpt from the questionnaire is shown together with the responses made by respondent No. 302:
It can be seen that the question was poorly designed, being in reality two questions, and this caused difficulties to the many respondents who had different views to the two questions. Respondent No. 302 (above) had clear views, but the questionnaire tick boxes did not provide an appropriate option, and the respondent chose the "Undecided" option despite having clear views.
Other respondents with the same difficulty of different views to the two questions made their own adaptations to the form, and some ticked two boxes, e.g. respondent No. 104:
Others with the same difficulty just ticked none of the boxes and wrote their comments, e.g. respondent No. 426:
("NO TO HOTEL - SAILING CLUB / SCHOOL NEEDS MODERNISING")
The question should not have been asked in this way - it ignores the standard advice on questionnaire design: "Do not ask more than one question at a time" as given in the section on "Things to avoid" in the Government Social Research Unit recommendations - see www.gsr.gov.uk/downloads/magenta_book/chap_6_Magenta.pdf.
Question 1 can also be criticized in that
• it is a leading question in that it is inviting support, which is well known to increase agreement. It should have followed standard practice and be worded in a neutral manner such as "What are your views on ..." (for each of the two questions) as was used in Wirral Council's 2004 consultation.
• it would have been better to have a four or five point scale for response such as "Strongly Agree / Agree / Disagree / Strongly Disagree" rather than the three-point scale.
Analysis of question 1 tick boxes
The table (left hand pair of columns) shows my analysis of the boxes ticked in the 583 released questionnaires.
|Questionnaires on view |
in West Kirby
One Stop Shop
|Analysis reported in |
Liverpool Daily Post
|Minutes of West Kirby |
|Yes||254||44%||In favour||46%||Broadly in favour||45%|
|no box ticked||11||2%|
|more than one box ticked||11||2%|
|(one form illegible)|
My analysis is open to public scrutiny as it has been published at www.westkirbyrenewal.org.uk/sail_q.htm .
There are also two sets of summary figures in the public domain (which are different). These are shown in the remaining four columns of the table.
The relevant quotation from the The Liverpool Daily Post of 2 July 2008 (www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2008/07/02/residents-are-still-wary-of-new-west-kirby-plans-64375-21212903), (also carried in the Wirral News of 9 July 2008) is
The results revealed by Carpenter Investments show 46pc in favour of the scheme, 18pc don't know and 36pc negative.
The relevant quotation from the minutes of the West Kirby Contact Group (meeting of 22.7.08) is
An analysis of these showed that 45% were broadly in favour of the proposal, 40% against, with a further 15% undecided.
It is a matter of concern that these do not agree with each other, nor with the 583 questionnaires released. It seems that those who ticked no boxes and those ticking two boxes may have been redesignated as "don't know" or "Undecided", even though the comments clearly show that many had clear views. So the problem of the poor design of question 1 seems to have been ignored.
Analysis of question 1 written comments
On 80 forms (14%), written comments indicated an opinion on the hotel that was different to the opinion of the sailing school. This 14% is likely to be an underestimate of the true feeling.
An obvious approach to dealing with the confusion around question 1 is to include the written comments with the tick boxes and analyze opinions concerning the sailing school and the current hotel plan separately. This is a very poor second choice to a properly designed survey, but I have carried out an analysis along these lines.
Concerning the proposed hotel plans, I found that out of the 583 questionnaire forms:
• 47% (275) were against the current hotel design
• 41% (238) indicated "yes", but it was often unclear from the comments whether they were approving the proposed plans for a 4-storey hotel on the Dee Lane car park site, or were just in principle in favour of a hotel somewhere in West Kirby, or even were just approving the sailing school without having seen the hotel plans
• 12% (69) were undecided, often indicating that they would like further information.
There was one illegible form.
I believe that one of the local Councillors has undertaken a similar exercise on the 583 released questionnaires, with a similar outcome.
In interpreting these figures, it must be remembered that many people were unable to complete a form for a variety of reasons (see Appendix 3).
The results concerning the sailing school were:
• 54% (312) indicated "yes"
• 35% (203) indicated "no"
• 11% (67) indicated "undecided".