How to Convince Council It’s Time for a Citizen Survey

-By Tom Miller

So your council members say they are in touch with their constituents and don’t need a resident survey to know what’s right for the community. Maybe they hesitate to ask residents questions whose answers council doesn’t already know.  Or perhaps the electeds are simply unfamiliar with the business value of surveys. For all those city staff members who have asked us how to convince council of the wisdom to conduct a broad resident survey about quality of community life, service delivery and public trust, here are the top ten reasons elected officials should consider a citizen survey.

Top Ten Reasons for Council To Consider a Citizen Survey

  1. The voice of the typical resident has broader value (and may be different) than the voice of the gadfly or those with more access to elected officials.
  2. Results identify what residents think is most important for the community to do.
  3. Data from surveys provide evidence of what is working and what needs help.
  4. Resident opinion underpins strategic planning.
  5. Survey data quantify resident opinion so that changes can be tracked over time as the community changes or improves.
  6. Surveys offer entry points to engage residents, businesses and non-profits to improve the community.
  7. Results permit tracking the success of policies and programs with metrics from resident opinion.
  8. Residents want councils to base plans on what the entire community cares about.
  9. Independent survey results add credibility to the evaluation of community and services.
  10. With surveys, councils no longer need to rely on advocacy groups’ assertions that those groups speak for the entire community, because the voice of the entire community is represented in quality survey data.


The National Citizen Survey


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