Government policies may or may not be popular, so decision makers often want to understand what residents think of existing policies or policies under consideration. Do residents support term limits for council members? How much are residents willing to pay to increase parks and recreation services? What are the best ways to encourage senior-healthy communities? What do residents think of a proposed open space tax? Analyzing the impacts of a client’s existing policy or anticipating the consequences of a proposed policy often requires a thorough investigation of relevant literature and records, and new conversations (one-on-one or in focus groups) and surveys with voters and other stakeholders.
When we identify the potential of new policies, we often reference sources similar to those for needs assessments, but our questions tend to be broader looking at the changes that policies have created or may create. By examining similar policies implemented in other locales and the anticipated behaviors reported in our surveys of and discussions with engaged populations, we can provide a critical context by which to understand how policies might work.
NRC assists government staff and public officials in policy analysis most often through surveys of jurisdiction residents and voters. We utilize both direct and indirect methodologies to assess client support for a policy as well as to understand better the underlying values and preferences on which resident position rests. Other methods we have used to develop policy include focus groups, literature searches and key informant interviews with staff from jurisdictions that have struggled with similar issues.
We have helped develop policy in most areas of local government ranging from development of transportation programs and taxation to the use of mosquito abatement procedures. We have measured resident support and willingness to pay for open space acquisition, new water treatment plants, recycling, and additional community policing. We have helped cities decide whether to adopt smoking ordinances in public places. We help transportation planners determine the optimal solution for transportation renovations in communities. We measure resident support for subsidized housing and help set the rates of subsidy and eligibility. We assist local governments to design ballot language based on resident preference with the expectation that a community-sensitive design will increase the chances to win funding.