MDB Insight Blog


Does Public Polling Give You What You Need to Improve Your Community?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you know everything about your community, especially when the residents, businesses, and institutions are as familiar as your own family.

But residents often have conflicting priorities about where their money should go. A lack of information when trying to make decisions can stall decisions for good: whether from a deficit of support or from a deluge of obstacles.

And then there’s the problem of trying to make decisions based on what residents say is important in public, versus what they believe in private when they have all the facts. These are all hurdles municipal governments have to overcome.

Even when you have money for traditional public polling, you can’t be sure you have avoided age-old problems like:

  • Have we given enough residents sufficient information to make the best decision for our community’s long-term health and sustainability?
  • Do we have a way to draw opinions from the majority, or are we consistently getting information solely from a select few?
  • How do we know what our residents really want, and what price they are willing to pay for it?

There Is a Better Way to Do Your Public Polling

We all know that public polling, or surveys, have twofold benefits:

  • Providing you with feedback from your municipality’s residents.
  • Helping residents feel like they’ve been heard by a municipality who is actively listening to what they want.

But often what you don’t get from traditional polling is the critical information your council needs to make decisions.


 Traditional polling and surveys ask residents what municipal priorities are important to them, but they don’t measure the level of those priorities’ importance. By contrast, Citizen Satisfaction IQ and Tax Sensitivity Calculator tell you not only what your residents want, but how much they want you to invest in it, even at the expense of other identified priorities.

For example, residents may say they want garbage pick-up services. But when asked to measure the importance of garbage pick-up services you may find that residents are more willing to drive their own waste to a landfill in lieu of losing other programs and services.

Measuring importance provides your municipality with real-time data that fills the gaps in your knowledge about the community you thought you knew.

The Importance of Real-Time Data

Don’t let your municipal government be the kind that takes so long to respond to residential priorities that the citizens lose faith in your efficacy. Data that is statistically significant, provided in real time, and quality assured in regard to your residents’ priorities provides your municipality with:

  1. Resident engagement in the decision-making and budgeting process. When residents feel heard by, and more engaged with, your municipality, their opinion about your council improves as well. You want to avoid the scenario in which things change before you’ve even analyzed the information polled in your surveys. Residents may then no longer feel like you were listening to them because it took your municipality too long to implement changes based on their opinions.

  2. Areas of improvement and opportunities to get ahead of your municipal competitors. Are new residents consistently attracted to an area near to you, but don’t choose you? Real-time data could help you grow your tax base in a timely way. Instead of finding out after the fact that you weren’t chosen (again), knowing and keeping track of data sooner helps you make changes - even in just the way you communicate - within the same budgeting year.

  3. The ability to better engage citizens in democracy. Being able to communicate data points more readily helps your council build legitimacy with residents, creating better momentum and engagement in local campaigns and elections.

  4. Decreased disagreement in decision making. Information in real time, provided by quality-assured data, allows your municipal team to make decisions faster (and with less disagreement).

Finding the overlap between your residents’ priorities and what they’re willing to pay for them is possible, but you have to lead with granular, real-time data.

Download this municipality checklist to find out if your community is ready to use a better kind of data collection in your public polling.

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