Survey methodology FAQs

  • Updated


FAQs for all Zencity surveys

1. How does Zencity recruit survey respondents?

We recruit survey respondents where the vast majority of residents can be most readily reached: on their devices. Respondents are recruited on a variety of digital platforms via any device they might be using, such as smartphones or tablets, and the sites they visit every day. With the help of targeted ads, we’re able to assemble a representative sample of your community and ensure that voices that might not be included in traditional survey formats are heard.


We choose this distribution method for its ability to let us quickly collect a large sample of diverse backgrounds; according to a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, 93% of adults in the United States use the internet, positioning it as a modern “public square” for reaching and hearing from a wide variety of voices; the same research shows just how widespread Internet adoption is across characteristics like race, gender and community type, as well as hard to reach groups, like younger people.


In addition, we also can provide scannable QR codes or shareable links for you to use in get-out-the-word campaigns on social media, newsletters, and other outlets. No matter whether a resident accesses the survey this way or is recruited through a digital ad, both eliminate the need for them to download an app or create an account on another site, minimizing a common barrier to participation.


2. What is the process for residents?

When a resident visits a website or opens a mobile app, they will see an ad inviting them to answer a short survey about their city, in the places on the screen where they are already accustomed to receiving ads.



The ads and the corresponding surveys are delivered in a variety of languages, depending on the languages your specify survey customization process, and also on what language a device is set to — e.g., English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Korean, or Russian.


Once a resident clicks on an ad, they are quickly redirected to the short questionnaire. Consisting of approximately 25 questions, residents can generally complete it in less than 5 minutes.


Alternatively, residents can also access the survey through a scannable QR code or shareable link that you can publicize across your own social media pages, website, newsletter, and more.


The questionnaire is ADA accessible


3. How does Zencity ensure accuracy of scores?

We seek to collect a representative sample of opinions from the population in any geographic unit surveyed, while minimizing potential sources of statistical bias. All public opinion survey methods have some error associated with them, but we employ the following effective strategies to maximize demographic representativeness and minimize non-response bias:


Representativeness.*​ Zencity uses a proprietary tool to track the demographic representativeness of its samples in real-time and make corresponding adjustments to its bidding and targeting to maximize representativeness. Because digital advertising parameters can be constantly adjusted programmatically, every survey response received can inform the next ad placed.


Zencity uses the annually-updated U.S. Census American Community Survey data to set response targets for each geographic area based on five different variables: race, age, sex, education level, and household income. We then collect data and check our progress against those targets in real-time, making adjustments until we have a closely-representative sample from which to generate an overall satisfaction score in real time.


Based on self-reported demographic data collected in the survey instrument, we track the demographic representativeness of the responses we receive in real-time and adjust our advertising bidding and targeting strategy to obtain a sample that matches the demographics of the geographic unit being measured. Survey responses are anonymized and stored in a secured, encrypted database.

*For community surveys and representative Pulse surveys.


Non-response bias.​ ​In addition to ensuring broad representativeness, Zencity is focused on minimizing non-response bias within the samples of people that complete our surveys. The advertisements, designs, images, or videos that potential respondents are shown are generic, and do not mention issues likely to bias certain types of respondents to take or decline to take a survey; instead, for example, an ad may announce: “We have an important new study for [community] residents.” Only after clicking into our survey and seeing the questions will a respondent see the specific topics covered by our surveys.


Our adherence to best practices and continual attention to bias reduction results in digital surveys with as good or better coverage of the actual community than traditional surveys.


4. How does Zencity ensure that survey responses come from my residents?

We use three methods to ensure that survey responses are appropriately attributed to your residents:

  1. We open the survey with a required question that asks respondents whether they live or work within the limits of your community. This phrasing also allows you to later see data relevant to respondents who are residents, commuters, or both.

  2. We use geofencing and the anonymous location data available to the digital advertising networks to only target devices that likely belong to residents.

  3. We ask respondents to provide their ZIP code.

When looking at residents, for example, only respondents who say they live in the community, provide a ZIP code in the community, and metadata indicates they reside in the community are counted as residents. Learn more about our geolocation process here.


5. How does Zencity ensure anonymity and protect privacy?

We take protecting privacy and ensuring respondent anonymity seriously. All survey responses are completely confidential and we do not collect any personal information that could identify a specific respondent (except, where applicable, an email address, for those that opt in to participate in similar surveys in the future). We only collect the survey question responses that are provided, along with anonymous metadata, which we use to improve the quality of our advertisements. There is no way that Zencity can identify an individual from the survey responses provided. For respondents who opt-in to future research, email addresses are not stored with survey responses, and are not linked in any way.


Further, we do not share individual-level responses to our surveys with our customers, only aggregated numbers, summaries, or disaggregated and anonymized open-ended responses. We remove any information that could potentially be used to de-anonymize comments provided. Finally, all survey responses are stored in secure, encrypted databases, using industry best practices.


Community Survey FAQs

1. What questions does Zencity ask to measure overall resident satisfaction?

The overall satisfaction score is calculated from the questions in the two main sections of the survey: general quality of life and satisfaction with different characteristics of life in your community.


Questions from the quality of life section include both close- and open-ended questions. Close-ended questions are rated on a numeric scale (1-5).

  1. Sample close-ended question: How is the overall quality of life in [your community]?

  2. Sample open-ended question: What is your favorite thing about living in [your community]?

Questions from the section on different characteristics of life in your community are all close-ended questions, rated on a numeric scale (1-5). Areas that these questions may cover include:

  1. Ease of getting around by public transportation

  2. Overall cleanliness and maintenance

  3. Sense of community among residents

2. How is the overall satisfaction score calculated?

As survey responses come in, we use an industry-standard statistical technique called rake weighting (also known as “rim weighting” or “iterative proportional fitting”) to correct for any remaining differences between the makeup of our survey respondents and the community as a whole.


Under this approach, each respondent receives a unique weight based on their various demographic characteristics (including such factors as age, gender, race, education), so that the distribution of each of these characteristics in the final weighted sample is the same as in the community as a whole.


Keeping those weights in mind, we arrive at your overall satisfaction score by averaging how each resident rated quality of life and community characteristics on a numeric scale (1-5), and classify this average as satisfied, neutral, or not satisfied. The overall satisfaction score, then, is the weighted percentage of residents who gave an overall satisfied rating.




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