In order to remove any concerns that Game Commission staff might influence the results, the Game Commission contracted with an independent third-party, Responsive Management, to conduct the survey. Responsive Management is an internationally recognized survey research firm that has conducted surveys for every state fish and wildlife agency in the country, as well as the federal outdoor resource agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Responsive Management had the staff and expertise to conduct a survey of this nature, is not affiliated with the Game Commission, and had no interest in the outcome other than to see that it produced an accurate result.
Asking every hunter at the time they buy a license would also not have provided an accurate result for several reasons. First, the data show that not every hunter in the purchases a license every license year. In fact, approximately twenty percent of hunters do not buy a license every year due to reasons such as illness, work, family commitments, or lack of free time. Therefore, if the Game Commission had conducted a poll at the beginning of any particular license year, those hunters who did not buy a license for that season would not have had the chance to participate and their views would not have been taken into consideration. And second, licenses are sold by hundreds of issuing agents across the state. The individuals selling these licenses are not trained in conducting surveys and are often only motivated to providing quality customer service to the buyer through completing the transaction as quickly as possible. The Game Commission would have no way of ensuring that a survey was conducted properly, or that individual employees at issuing agents weren't impacting the survey results by inaccurately recording the responses.
Yes, the sample size was large enough to generate a survey with a confidence interval of 95% because the sample size consisted of an accurate representation of the hunting license buying population. When it comes to the accuracy of a survey, the quality of the participants – in turns of how well they accurately reflect the makeup of license buyers – matters much more than the number of participants. For example, a survey that consists of a large number of participants but is heavily weighed in favor of individuals of a certain age or demographic would not accurately reflect the views of the hunting population as a whole.
There have been wrong predictions over the last several election cycles, but the Game Commission has advantages over entities that conduct large public opinion polls that lead to more accurate results, such as the contact information for those who purchases a hunting license and information regarding how frequently those individuals purchase a license. This allows the Game Commission to develop an accurate sample of the hunting buying population for conducting surveys of this nature.
Companies that conduct large public opinion polls, however, do not have the contact information for all voters, and they do not have the ability to know which members of the public will vote every year. In the last election for instance, there were segments of the population that voted in higher numbers than they had in previous election cycles. Most of the public polling leading up to the election had no way of taking that into account, and therefore, some of the predictions about how the elections would turn out were proven to be incorrect.