Scenario Texts

The following scenarios were used for the focus groups I ran in Alameda County, California, in the spring of 2000. Research based on these focus groups is reported in:


Since Mayor Jones's election three years ago, crime rates in our area have been cut almost in half. Jones credits his get-tough approach to crime along with the license he has granted to the police department to cut crime however it sees fit. One controversial step the police department has taken is so-called ``profile stops'': pulling cars over for minor infractions in the hope that they will yield arrests for more serious crimes. Critics have called the practice punishment for ``driving while black,'' noting that black drivers are three times as likely to be pulled over under the program than are white drivers.


WASHINGTON - Sources close to Senator Joan Halfin confirmed today that rumors of an influence-peddling scheme were at least partly true. Halfin, who won re-election two years ago in a close race against businessman Hugh Lankson, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The charges stem from that re-election campaign, reported to be the most expensive in state history. Lankson, a toy-manufacturing magnate who spent over $20 million of his own money in the race, challenged Halfin to run a campaign "without special-interest money." Halfin, in response, agreed not to accept money from PACs.

However, since the campaign, charges of bribery and influence-peddling have dogged the Senator. Halfin, who is known in Washington as a defender of environmental protection and international children's rights, has recently shifted positions on each of these issues; and the latest revelations suggest that the automobile and clothing industries have pressured her to make the changes in exchange for promised support in her next re-election bid.

Furthermore, asked about accepting soft money, she said: "I continue to support legislation to restrict or outlaw soft money. But for now, no candidate can afford to reject soft money unless she's a multi-millionaire. Until the law is changed, I have no choice but to accept soft money contributions."


Chemco, the region's second-largest employer, escalated the dispute between itself and the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday, claiming that Chemco was immune to the agency's regulations.

The dispute arose after the EPA fined Chemco $400,000 for releasing too many ozone-depleting chemicals into the air. The ozone regulations, which have been controversial for years, went into effect two years ago over the objections of the chemical industry.

The EPA local office is threatening to pursue further action in the case, including requiring that Chemco's plant be shut down if it continues violating the regulations.

John Ellis, the chief lobbyist for the Washington, D.C.-based environmental group AirWatch, backs the EPA's finding. "We think Chemco's behavior is scandalous," said Ellis. "They're flouting the health of the earth and the laws of the country." He urged EPA to follow through by shutting down the factory.


Since the recent airport expansion, the number of airplanes flying over your home has more than doubled. The airport, which was a small, regional facility, has become a major destination with the construction of a hub for Global Airways here. The planes are loud enough to rattle your windows and make it impossible to have conversations when they fly overhead.

There is no neighborhood association in your area, although you are on friendly terms with most of your neighbors.