MDB Insight Blog

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Harnessing Public Opinion to Improve Municipal Services

Municipal councils are elected to do the work of the people. But, too often, knowing what the people want — and using that knowledge to inform budgeting decisions for different development projects and programs — is based more on guesswork than reliable data; this is due not to a lack of care but to a lack of available tools and resources.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Reliably collected and analysed, public opinion can be a treasure-trove of information that will benefit both Council, and the people they represent.

Doing Public Opinion Polling Right

Getting reliable public opinion to inform your strategic planning and budgeting allocation processes does not have to be difficult. The most important features of an effective public polling tool are:

  • representative sampling, and
  • real-time updates.

This is because you want to solicit real opinions from your residents about services, programs, and priorities — and you need to know how these opinions changes over time. Ideally, residents should be polled both before and after Council rolls out a new program or policy, for example a new cultural mapping tool or cultural development program, to ascertain the extent to which the new addition is meeting residents’ expectations.

Traditional public opinion polling is not representative.

Often, interviewers make telephone calls (usually on landlines) that do not reach large segments of the population. This is because traditional surveys rely on opt-in participants, not random samplings of different segments of the population. And while this traditional technique could also yield some valuable information, it will not be a true reflection of the opinions of all strata of your community. The data will therefore be unreliable.

There’s also another challenge.

Traditional polling is usually done once or twice a year. When the results are collated and presented to Council, the data may already be dated. And dated data is neither useful nor reliable for strategic planning purposes.

Get Real-Time Data From Representative Public Polling

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An optimized way to solicit public opinion is from a real-time, representative polling instrument. A public survey, such as MDB Insight’s Citizen Satisfaction IQTM, yields better results than traditional public surveys because it:

  • Relies on real-time data updates. You get the information you need when you need it, not months later.
  • Uses representative sampling. All demographic sectors of your community are well represented and have a platform to be heard.
  • Uses a derived importance approach to analyse the data. Unfiltered citizen opinions are collated, sifted, and analysed to ensure that you have the information that you need.
  • Produces user-friendly print-outs of analysed data. Your polling information will be at your fingertips, making it easy for you to prove the impact of your policies or to see the areas that need further attention.
  • Is better designed than traditional surveys. Trained interviewers ask targeted questions, instead of the open-ended ones typically used in traditional surveys. This means that the survey process itself is faster and more efficient at collecting relevant data.

 Residents will be more likely to participate in a targeted survey that uses trained personnel to ask shorter, better structured questions. And the more people participate, the more data points you will have on which to base your planning, or to assess your impact.

Real-time, representative data will allow you to make better budgeting and other municipal decisions that are in sync with what your residents really want.

And your residents will also be happy to know that their opinions matter and that you are doing everything you can to improve the cultural and economic development of their community.

Interested in learning about other tools that can help alleviate budget allocation headaches? Download this checklist to see how MDB Insight can help.

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