Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey

Country/area: United States

Organisation: APM Research Lab, MPR News

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 11/08/2021

Credit: Craig Helmstetter, Kristine Liao, Benjamin Clary, Alexandrea Kouame


Craig Helmstetter, Managing Partner

Craig Helmstetter leads the Research Lab, directing the overall agenda and developing new projects, as well as providing hands-on analysis and reporting. Craig joined American Public Media from Wilder Research. His 16 years there included helping to establish and then lead the Minnesota Compass initiative.

Benjamin Clary, Senior Research Analyst

Benjamin Clary joined the Lab through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program, which competitively awards recent humanities PhDs two-year positions at partnering non-academic organizations. Benjamin earned a doctoral degree in comparative literature from Emory University and also holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Kenyon College. Previously Benjamin served as a research specialist with the Nature of Evidence Initiative at Emory, which deepens students’ engagement with research and evidence within and between disciplines. They have also served as a research and editorial assistant for The Letters of Samuel Beckett project, a graduate instructor, a teaching fellow, and a volunteer and financial coordinator with the nonprofit Give Us Wings.

Kristine Liao, Data Journalist

Kristine is the data journalist for the Lab, supporting the team with data analysis and visualization, reporting, editing and social media promotion. She is passionate about environmental issues and global health. Kristine has prior research and reporting experience with Global Citizen, Audubon Magazine and GroundUp (while reporting in South Africa). She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and international studies.

Alexandrea Kouame, Development Officer for Institutional Giving

Alexandrea Kouame is the development officer for the Lab. She joined MPR/APM in 2018 with more than 13 years of fundraising and development experience. Most recently, Alexandrea served as a fundraising and development consultant and held development positions at McNally Smith College of Music, Regions Hospital Foundation and the University of Minnesota Medical Foundation. She is a hobby musician and reinforces her passion for music through her board service for She Rock She Rock. Alexandrea lives in South Minneapolis with her husband Richard, teenage daughter Helena and beautiful red-headed dog Layla. She enjoys cooking and spending time with her family.

Project description:

The APM Research Lab and MPR News partnered to tune in to the perspectives and opinions of Minnesotans across the state, with a special focus on voices less often included in the mainstream narrative. The resulting Minnesota’s Diverse Communities survey reached more than 1,500 residents with oversamples of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Hmong, and other Asian (non-Hmong) populations to gain valuable perspectives from racial and ethnic groups across the state. The survey data is available to the public with the goal of increasing awareness of perspectives across Minnesota’s communities. The project first published on 11/20 and is ongoing with 10 installments

Impact reached:

This project in ongoing. Thus far, through this collaborative project, APM Research Lab survey and reporting has resulted in:

  • Three virtual events/community conversations plus one more in spring 2022
  • Six survey reports on the following topics: COVID impacts and vaccine acceptance, policing and criminal justice, discrimination, inclusion, news consumption and trust in the media, and trust in public schools. One more on arts and culture is coming soon.
  • Three corresponding blog posts: good news and good ideas, statewide responses to discrimination compared to a national study, and hopefulness now compared to four years ago.
  • One response panel featuring seven thought leaders and researchers
  • Seven stories published by MPR News and/or Sahan Journal and shared through more than a dozen media outlets across the state
  • One podcast feature — Counter Stories
  • Several internal presentations and collaborations to apply learnings in meaningful ways for MPR programming.
  • Interest by other organizations to learn and use methodologies established by this survey

Techniques/technologies used:

Minnesota’s Diverse Communities is a public opinion survey that provides a representative picture of the opinions and experiences of several racial and ethnic groups in Minnesota. To do this survey effectively, we partnered with a valued partner SSRS, a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research Transparency Initiative. We oversampled populations that are typically underrepresented in most surveys.

Prior to the survey, APM Research Lab partnered with MPR Community Engagement team to conduct listening sessions across the state with participants identifying as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. The listening sessions informed the survey and listening session participants helped test the survey prior to implementation.

The survey invitation was sent by mail and follow up was done by phone.

Surveys were also translated in Spanish and Hmong languages.

Transparency disclosures and methodologies are published on the Minnesota Diverse Communities web page and data files are available upon request.

In the reports, APM Research Lab used a variety of techniques to detail the survey’s findings including charts, maps, video, photography, etc. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

This is a groundbreaking survey since most surveys in Minnesota have not focused on as many distinct racial and ethnic groups as we sought to reach with the Minnesota’s Diverse Community Survey. This is largely due to the fact that the more narrowly you define your target populations, the harder it is to attain a statistically significant sample size. It took us several years of effort to build partnerships and raise the funds needed for such an undertaking. Even so, we had to make tough decisions with the resources we had. For example, Minnesota has a large Somali population, and we had originally hoped to include a representative sample of Somali adults in addition to the other groups represented in the survey. While we reached more than 40 Somali respondents we unfortunately ran out of time and money to gain a representative sample.

What can others learn from this project?

Two of the virtual events invited Minnesota journalists and community leaders to learn about the project and asked questions.  Participants were interested in the project for reporting and some were interested in replicating for their geographic area or using some of the methodologies for a survey that was already planned.  In addition, journalists were introduced to perspectives and stories that they may not normally seek out.  Minnesota’s Diverse Communities tells a broader picture of where we are doing well as a state and where we are struggling to support BIPOC communities.

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