Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Concerns of Northern New Mexico Citizens Probed

In this post I contrast the "Community Survey Report for Northern New Mexico" (CSR), available on this blog, with the "Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Leaders Study" (CLS), available at Both of these works first appeared in late 2009.

The former is an unfunded survey performed by myself, with 225 respondents. The latter is a DOE-LANL funded survey conducted by Research & Polling, Inc. of Albuquerque, NM, with 224 respondents. The former survey attempts to assess the feelings of ordinary local community members toward DOE-LANL and is driven by a personal curiosity, fueled by two years of frustrating service on the DOE's Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board (NNMCAB). The latter study attempts to explore the question of how DOE-LANL is perceived by local community leaders, and is inspired by a need of DOE-LANL administrators for programmatic feedback.

Here are a few lines from the CSR:

"A survey was conducted of the attitudes of citizens of EspaƱola and Santa Fe toward DOE operations in NM.

Results show that worries about legacy waste, as well as wastes generated by present and possible future DOE operations, are combined with an appreciation for the economic benefits brought to NM by DOE operations."

"Based on these survey results, it is plausible to say that money and jobs brought to Northern NM by the DOE are considered to be very important to many of Northern NM’s citizens. At the same time, concerns about pollution caused by the DOE’s operations are very worrisome. Often, feelings of gratification due to economic benefit, and worries about pollution, appear within the same individual."

"There is evidence of ambivalence toward the DOE’s ongoing nuclear weapons program. Although strong opinions pro and con about nuclear weapons do not appear within the same individual, uncertainty about this issue can still be seen in the views of individual respondents."

"It seems fair to say that suspicion about the DOE’s operations in northern New Mexico is widespread. The fact that many DOE employees live and work in Northern New Mexico is not seen as a reason to be sanguine about the DOE’s operations here."

Here are a few lines from the CLS:

"This tracking study (CLS) was commissioned by LANL. The objective was to measure the Lab’s perceived progress in maintaining community relationships and listening and responding to the needs of the communities in Northern NM ... . The study measures changes in Community Leaders’ awareness and satisfaction levels with specific Lab programs and activities over the past year. The results of the research will help to better shape and direct ... contributions to the region in the ... future."

"Over the past two years, LANL has improved its overall image among Community Leaders throughout Northern NM. LANL’s persistent efforts to be involved with, and support, a variety of community programs have clearly helped its overall standing in the region. The Community Leaders’ positive opinion of LANL is reflected in their overall impression ratings. Approximately three-fifths (61%) of Leaders have a favorable impression of the Lab, which has grown from 52% in the previous year, while unfavorable ratings have dropped from 13% to 6% currently."

The difference in emphasis between the CSR and the CLS is clear enough. However, both works attempt to address legitimate concerns regarding the relationship between DOE-LANL and the Northern New Mexico community.

The completed CSR was first presented publicly on Nov. 18, 2009, at Northern New Mexico University, to NMED's Community Radiation Monitoring Group. It had been previously summarized at November, 2009 meetings of the NNMCAB.

(A discussion of LANL employee attitudes, as reflected in a 2009 LANL internal survey, has been blogged recently at

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