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Example 1: What you should ask yourself

George took on the challenge of doing a citizen satisfaction survey so he could see how well his new division at city hall was doing. He asked himself some important questions:

Why do I want to know what people think?

George thought long and hard. Finally he just realized that it was important for him and the rest of his new division to see how well they were doing. Were the citizens of the city happy about the services the new division provided?

What kind of information am I looking for?

This made George really think. Of course he wanted to see how people felt, but what kind of information was he really looking for? Good information may be a cause for celebration, but somewhat negative information may point out some potential areas in the division that require some improvement.

Whose opinions am I trying to measure?

This question was easy. George knew that he wanted to know the opinion of every citizen in the city that used the services of his division-and that was everybody. George knew that there would be a few difficulties in getting what he wanted. Since his city was very diverse, with a population speaking several languages, George knew that he had to either have translation services available or miss out on gathering information from non-English speaking members of the community. This was especially important because he hadn't yet figured out how to implement the survey yet. There was no set budget allocated for the survey yet.

He hadn't yet chosen a method. Face-to-face interviews would be expensive and time -consuming and would require a lot of people power. Mailed questionnaires would cost as much as the stamps involved and the paper.

George knew he couldn't forget about translation services. Face-to-face or telephone surveys would require having several volunteers or paid staff that could speak the diverse languages of many members of the community. A mailed survey would require the initial translation services as well as translation services in the analysis phase of the survey project. Also, George knew that translating the survey into 7 languages would drive up the costs of the paper and the postage. And he knew mailed surveys should be sent more than once, with a reminder post card or phone call.

By now George was feeling a little overwhelmed, but he just thought of all the good that knowing how the people really felt would do his department. He knew that the survey was the best way to find out what his division really needed to do to improve things. He was determined to find out what people thought.

What am I going to do with the information, once I get it?

George knew the answer to this question. His proposal to do a citizen satisfaction survey was not merely lip service. George was dedicated to the idea of actually improving things for the people of his city. The main goal of this survey was to find out where his division needed to improve. After finding out, he intended on working to improve it.

How do I gather information on opinions?

After mulling it over and speaking with his bosses, George decided that a mailed survey would be the best route to take. He figured that he would have the best chances of getting a representative sample of people in the city if all the surveys were mailed out to everyone in 7 languages.

He knew the answers would be anonymous, which was important for many of the refugees living in the city who came from countries in which giving their opinions to government officials was not a good idea.

Also, George's staff and budget was small and he only had a few volunteers to work with him. They would be able to mail out all the surveys with little effort.

Also another benefit of mailing out questionnaires was that the closed questions could be statistically analyzed with little effort.

What are some obstacles I may encounter? And how do I get around them?

George's biggest worry other than getting the approval of his boss to actually do the survey was the response rate. He had spoken to a city official in another city that had done a citizen survey and had received only a 12 percent return rate. Also, that city official was happy and damn proud of it.

George hoped that a representative sample would return his survey to him, but most importantly he hoped to get some good information about the good things his division was doing and a feel for what needs improvement.

Example 2: Report of an opinion poll

This is a sample report from an opinion poll, taken from public opinion surveys on child passenger safety legislation.

Citizen Opinion Report on Child Safety Legislation

The issue of the safety of child passengers in automobiles has been growing in recent years. Prior action toward the issue has been weak, providing for only oral warnings and/or information about child passenger safety.

A survey of the attitudes of Kansas citizens about child safety restraints and the Child Passenger Safety Act was conducted by random telephone survey

The results indicated overall:

  • 73% of respondents support a law requiring proper use of safety restraints for all children under age five

This can be further broken down into:

  • 25% were very willing to support the proposed law
  • 48% were willing to support the proposed law
  • 12% were neither willing nor unwilling to support the proposed law
  • 9% were unwilling to support the proposed law
  • 4% were very unwilling to support the proposed law
  • 2% did not know

Of the 27% who opposed the proposed legislation:

  • 68% felt there was already too much government interference in their lives
  • 55% felt the law was impractical
  • 45% felt the law unfairly burdens poor families and those with too many children