2015 – Researching and Regaining Public Trust – Reynolds School District
Probably our favorite project in recent memory.
Reynolds School District is a true feel-good story. After suffering through devastating financial issues that severely damaged their reputation and trust in the community as well as multiple election losses, they endured the worst possible tragedy imaginable – a school shooting at the high school. Despite these terrible events, the community and school district came together and successfully passed a $125 million bond measure in May 2015.
The Nelson Report is proud to have served as the survey research partner in this project.
2014 – Credibility Matters – Dallas School District
Strong community support for this district in most cases would have translated into easy passage of a $17 million bond request that did not increase the overall tax burden on its community. But the district took a calculated risk and included some key projects that the community rated as ‘low priority’ projects in survey work. The Nelson Report advised the district that there was most likely enough goodwill and support in the community to allow for potential approval of these projects, but it was a calculated risk. The measure passed with 53% support.
Lesson Learned: Money requests are only as strong as the weakest component. Including projects that the community ranks as ‘low priority’ requires real research and analysis to understand if the district or local government has enough support in the community to push these projects past the finish line. In this case, the Dallas School District’s reputation and credibility in the community gave them greater latitude with voters.
2014 – Reshaping the Conversation – Clackamas Community College
Clackamas Community College is one of the largest community colleges in the state of Oregon. After several devastating losses at the polls they engaged The Nelson Report to do their research. Learning how and what to talk about in their bond measure campaign was instrumental in helping them pass a $90 million bond measure in November 2014.
Lesson Learned: Every community is individual and unique. Messages that work in one community may not work in another. It is vitally important for public entities to keep in touch with their individual community.
2013 – Targeted Messaging for a Successful Election – Pendleton School District
Pendleton School District serves 3,200 students in northeastern Oregon and successfully passed a $55 million bond measure in November 2013. Using their survey results as a guide, they were able to target and deliver individual messages to specific voter blocs to reflect their community’s priorities and concerns.
Lesson Learned: Strategic and targeted messaging is the key to any successful election whether it is a school district, a local government, or a statewide ballot measure campaign. Survey research helps identify key messages that move key voter demographics.
2012 – Refocusing Voter Perception – Sublimity Fire District
Sublimity Fire District is a rural volunteer fire district that serves 44 square miles east of Salem, OR. Our experience is that fire districts are always highly regarded in the communities they serve, but passing a measure to replace fire engines can be difficult simply because they are generally very well maintained and cared for. They look good on the outside, so the community’s perception is that they must be in good operating condition.
In this community, helping residents understand that replacing existing fire engines with new engines would significantly save the district in annual operating and maintenance costs – issues identified by The Nelson Report research – was the key to building the level of support needed to pass a $950,000 bond measure in May 2012.
2011 – The Data Tells the Real Story – Lincoln County School District
Tsunamis are always a concern for coastal communities and Lincoln County School District’s community was no different. With Waldport High School located within a tsunami zone, moving the school to higher ground became a high priority for the school district. Sometimes districts make the mistake of assuming the priorities of a vocal few are the same as the priorities of the community at-large. Survey results from The Nelson Report showed that athletic facility improvements were not high on the community’s priority list. By being willing to make tough decisions based on data, the District made the hard choice to let go of lower priority projects. Their reward? Passage of a $63 million bond measure in November 2011.
Lesson Learned: We’ve seen this countless times. The passions of a vocal minority are mistaken for widespread community support. Let the research do the work.
2010 – Research is Key in Tough Times – Forest Grove School District
In the depths of ‘The Great Recession,’ the Forest Grove School District achieved the impossible and was the only school district in Oregon to pass their bond measure in the November 2010 election. While residents expressed serious concern about the state of the economy in the survey research conducted by The Nelson Report, the district was able to overcome those concerns by reassuring voters that passage of the measure would not increase their current school district property tax rate and would relieve overcrowding. Effectively delivering these key messages identified in their survey research tipped the scales in their favor.
Lesson Learned: A bad economy does not have to doom a money measure. Effective research will pinpoint winning messages even in a bad economy.
2009 – Uncovering Hidden Support – Oregon Project Independence
Our favorite project for 2009 was for Oregon Project Independence, a state-funded program that serves senior citizens or individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other related diseases who are challenged in their abilities to function independently. The survey work found that while very few Oregonians were aware of Oregon Project Independence and the services they provided, they strongly supported the program. In fact, Oregon voters showed strong support for proposals that would eliminate medical expense tax deductions if the funds were used for Oregon Project Independence services.
2008 – Success in Tax-Resistant Communities – Oregon Trail School District
In rural, largely unincorporated areas, it is often more difficult to gain the level of support needed to pass a bond because the tax burden tends to be higher for these residents. After three failed attempts, the district re-thought their process, worked with The Nelson Report to survey their community and discovered they could win using the right strategy and the right messages. Through a lot of hard work and creativity the district came up with the slogan VOTE (Vote Oregon Trail Education). Their work paid off. In November 2008 the Oregon Trail School District successfully passed a $114.9 million bond measure despite the hefty $2.35 per thousand tax increase.
2006 – Campaign Perpetually – Bend La Pine School District
Bend La Pine School District is a relatively large district serving multiple communities in Central Oregon. Over the years this school district has learned that regular contact and communication with its community is the key to winning elections. As their communications director Julianne Repman says, “We are always in campaign mode whether we are actively seeking a money measure or not.” The Nelson Report advises all of our clients to adopt this approach.
Bend La Pine has used their The Nelson Report survey research to improve upon and build very positive community perceptions and trust. In addition, they have timed their capital projects with retiring bond debt so they are able address their construction needs without increasing property taxes. In 2006, Bend La Pine passed a $119 million bond measure with a 59.6% yes vote. The Nelson Report was proud to be a part of this effort.
2005 – Regular Polling Yields Big Results – Everett School District
Through consistent and regular survey research (community perception surveys and benchmark bond/levy surveys) conducted by The Nelson Report, Everett School District has been consistently successful in passing multiple money measures on the same ballot. In 2005, Everett SD not only won the renewal of their operating levy with a 58.7% yes vote, they also passed a $119 million bond measure with a 59.8% yes vote.
Lesson Learned: Commitment to research and staying in touch with their community through community perception surveys paid dividends for Everett SD when they passed two major money measures with resounding majorities…not an easy feat!
2004 – Listening to Community Preference – Neah-Kah-Nie School District
Located along the Oregon coast, Neah-Kah-Nie School District is a small district with only 4,422 total registered voters. Through their survey research conducted by The Nelson Report, they learned residents valued replacing old/outdated buildings and providing increased educational opportunities for students.
Lesson Learned: By being willing to listen and respond to the community’s priorities and sell property to offset the cost of the bond measure, Neah-Kah-Nie was successful in passing a $16.5 million bond measure in November 2004.
2002 – Collaborative Polling Works – City of Newberg / City of Dundee / Newberg School District / Chehalem Parks & Recreation District / Yamhill County
To this day, one of the most interesting projects we’ve ever done. It is rare for government entities to come together collaboratively on a survey research project. It is even more uncommon when it comes to passing money measures. This, however, was exactly what happened here. Rather than compete on the ballot, they worked collaboratively with The Nelson Report and put together a survey instrument that determined what projects the community felt were the highest priority, then used the data to put together proposals that reflected those priorities. The data determined that the school district should go out first with their requests, which they did with great success.
Lesson Learned: Due to this collaboration, they significantly improved overall community perceptions, avoided competition on the ballot and created a greater chance for success when it came to passing their individual money measures.
Mark Nelson, Principal & Founder
Mark Nelson founded The Nelson Report in 1980, specializing in public opinion survey research for school districts, local governments, business and industry groups, statewide ballot measures and political campaigns. With over 35 years of experience in survey research and polling across the Pacific Northwest and the US, Nelson has refined and perfected the unique methodology and strategies that make Nelson Report data so reliable and insightful. Each survey produced by The Nelson Report is overseen and approved by Nelson.
Melissa Martin, Survey Research Director
Since 2001, Melissa Martin has conducted survey research for The Nelson Report. She oversees questionnaire design, analysis and presentation of results to The Nelson Report clients. Ms. Martin is a respected industry professional who regularly presents at statewide and national conferences on the importance of survey research, understanding demographic profiles, and how to use survey research data to deliver specific messages to specific demographics.
J.L. Wilson, Principal
J.L. Wilson is the newest member of The Nelson Report team, joining the firm in 2014 with a 16-year history in public affairs including most recently Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for Associated Oregon Industries, the state’s largest and most influential business organization. Says Wilson, “For 16 years I have been a prolific consumer of polling and survey research services, and for 16 years, The Nelson Report consistently delivered a superior product.” Wilson works with clients on survey development, project management and presentation of results.
Alicia Givens, Field Operations Manager
All of The Nelson Report’s fieldwork is conducted in-house, and Alicia Givens is the professional who makes it happen. She runs The Nelson Report’s call center and is responsible for the hiring and training of Nelson Report interviewers. Ms. Givens ensures quality control and that all survey policies and procedures are adhered to for the duration of each survey project. She has overseen all of The Nelson Report’s fieldwork and quality control since 2005.
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