(LSU Student Newspaper)




Sociology class gains hands-on experience

Survey results show Baton Rouge residents are well educated

By Angelle Delgado
Contributing Writer

National and regional groups often conduct surveys, but how do Baton Rouge residents compare concerning social, economic and political issues?

Last spring semester an undergraduate sociology class set out to find some answers.

When the idea of the class was to learn how to conduct a survey, Frederick Weil, a sociology professor, felt that a textbook was not the best place to gain knowledge.

"I'm not a big fan of textbook learning," Weil said

Instead, Weil suggested the class conduct its own survey of Baton Rouge residents that could be compared to other national and regional surveys, giving them the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in sociological methods.

"It was a little overwhelming at first," said Stephanie Frank, a sociology senior. But, the class worked on putting the survey together step-by-step, Frank said.

Students worked on the Internet and searched various Web sites to find questions to develop the survey, Frank said.

After choosing four topics: crime, gender, race and trust in public institutions, students narrowed the survey down to 30 questions, many of which were from national and regional surveys, Weil said.

The students then interviewed 360 Baton Rouge residents, ages 18 and older, by phone to gain a better view of the city in 2000.

The survey showed that Baton Rouge residents are younger and better educated than average polled cities

Weil said he could attribute this to the fact that Baton Rouge is a college town, but the results surprised him.

Baton Rouge was shown to be more pro-choice than average Southern cities, but the majority of residents see abortion as wrong.

Results also showed that residents have more confidence in organized religion compared to national ratings.

On household issues, Baton Rouge indicates a lower percentage of divorce compared to both national and regional surveys.

Baton Rouge's view of gender issues proves to be typical of the South, being that the South is more conservative than other parts of the nation, Weil said.

Baton Rouge appears to be "more modern than expected," which Weil said was surprising.

Compared to national surveys, Baton Rouge residents feel more threatened by crime than five years ago. The survey also showed that a high percentage of the population is more concerned with crime.

A high percentage of residents believe racism has stayed the same within the last few years, according to the survey.

However, Louis D'Eila, a sociology junior, said a vast majority of the African- American population he surveyed felt racism increased during the last five years.

Overall, Weil said the survey showed that Baton Rouge seems to be "an interesting combination" of typical southern qualities and more modern ones.

The results intrigued students, who seemed to gain a lot from preparing the survey themselves, Weil said

"I learned a lot about surveys and how they are done," D'Eila said.

Students started getting excited about the assignment when they realized the results could be useful to future surveys and give Baton Rouge the opportunity to be compared to those surveys, Weil said.

"I was pleased with the response we got," Frank said.

Conducting the survey and learning the methods needed to do so are lessons Frank said she expects to use as good experience for graduate school.

Weil said he plans on including a survey assignment in his future sociological method classes and possibly updating the survey every year.

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