During the late 1970's and early 80's, Diane Hedin and I and a few others did something called the Minnesota Youth Polls out of the Center for Youth Development and Research which existed at the time at the University of Minnesota. The (sometimes) annual polls collected data from young people around the state about various topics that were relevant to them, such things as:
- their views on school and school discipline
- the threat of nuclear war
- their future aspirations
- politics and public issues
We would analyze the data, choose the best quotes, and write up and print these youth polls and then disseminate them for free.
With today's technology, it would be much easier to do this now. I remember doing by hand, a "content theme analysis" on every open-ended question on every survey from the youth polls, and we had to talk about the number and percentage of responses, versus the respondents when we described the qualitative data from the youth polls. I guess we still might want to do that, especially for the focus group data.
The polls always combined qualitative and quantitative data, which gave them the ability to explain not only the breadth of data from closed-ended questions, but also the depth of understanding that open-ended survey questions and/or focus groups gave us. The reports were always full of quotes and photos and you really came away understanding what young people believed on various topics, and how much they agreed and how they differed. It was a lot of work!
So, if we were to re-instate the youth polls, what should we ask? Where should we begin? If you have access to a group of young people, especially teenagers, would you please ask them what they'd like to be asked and share that with us? Or tell us what you'd be curious to learn about them. We may get the chance to do it, and want to be ready for that opportunity. Thanks man!
-- Rebecca Saito, Senior research associate
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