Engaging Your Community through Surveys and Polls

APA California Chapter, Sacramento Valley Section


Tuesday, June 6, 2017
10 a.m. - 11 a.m. PDT

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Local governments throughout California are applying a variety of public engagement strategies and approaches to address issues ranging from land use and budgeting to climate change and housing. Planners often use surveys and polls as a way to engage the public and collect ideas. During this webinar, planners will learn about two aspects of this type of engagement: written surveys and in-person polling at public engagement meetings/events.  

ILG’s Sarah Rubin will begin the webinar with an overview of best practices related to how planners should think strategically about when to use a written (typically digital) survey and when instant polling may be an appropriate method for gathering resident feedback. For example, is the planner clear about the goals of the survey and/or about the larger resident engagement effort the survey or polling will inform?  Until goals are clear and understood, it is challenging to create survey or polling questions that are appropriately focused.  In addition, might there be questions that should not be asked (potentially because of regulatory, policy or even political constraints). Sarah will also expose participants to a wide variety of polling tools (but there will be no endorsement of any particular tool or method).

Edward (Ted) Lascher, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Public Policy and Administration, California State University, Sacramento, will focus on strong survey design and question construction.  For example, what types of questions do you want to ask (multiple choice, rating scales, open ended / essay) and what are the pros and cons of each type of question.  How many questions might you include? How to avoid leading questions or double barreled questions (those that ask about more than one issue but allow only one answer).  Ted will share other lessons learned from real life experiences.

David Campt, Ph.D., author of Read the Room for Real: How a Simple Technology Creates Better Meetings, will focus on when and how to use instant polling at an in-person meeting. He will explain how this type of technology can be used in smaller planning meetings and focus groups to large engagement workshops or events.  Instant polling allows participants to share opinions anonymously, change the nature of dialogue and make it easier for a meeting participants to ‘see’ and understand others. The tool can be used to identify common ground as well as differences in a group and can be handy for reporting up to elected officials and the larger community.  David will share a variety of specific techniques and offer examples from his own practice.

The webinar Julwill have a fair amount of time available for planners to ask direct questions about their own unique challenges.

Resource URL



David Campt


Edward (Ted) Lascher

Dr. Lascher studied Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His specialty is the policy process, legislative politics, and the impact of institutional structures on policy outcomes. He previously taught at Harvard University and worked for two California State agencies. Read More

Sarah Rubin

Sarah Rubin leads the Public Engagement Program at the California-based Institute for Local Government. She is a public policy and collaborative process professional with over 18 years of experience. Specializing in public engagement, she has worked on a wide variety of issues including air quality, utilities, public health, disaster preparedness ... Read More

Contact Info

Julia Lave Johnston, jjohnston@ca-ilg.org