Zencity's representative survey methodology

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Zencity’s surveys offers local government leaders a range of solutions to aid in ongoing performance management and timely decision-making. Below, we will cover the methodology we employ for our suite of representative survey options: Zencity's Community Survey, Blockwise, and Pulse Premium. Read on to learn how we recruit respondents, ensure representativeness, and calculate results, as well as how to access your scores.


Recruiting respondents

We reach residents on a variety of digital platforms via any device they might be using, such as smartphones or tablets. Using 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. In addition, this approach eliminates any need for respondents to download an app or create an account on another site, minimizing a common barrier to participation.


Additionally, in some surveys we also bring in respondents from online survey panel providers to ensure we have representation from harder to reach communities. We do this by distributing the survey to vendors who have already recruited a large set of individuals (an “online panel”) who have previously signed up to take a variety of online surveys.


Drawing upon these two modalities—ad-based and panel-based recruitment—we are able to ensure that the survey sample is an accurate representation of your community’s demographic makeup.


Ensuring representativeness

For every survey, we recruit a sample of respondents (as detailed in the section above) that reflects the unique demographic characteristics of your community, as measured by the U.S. Census. This data allows us to track the demographic representativeness of the responses we receive in real-time and adjust our advertising bidding and targeting strategy accordingly.


In communities where many residents are not native English speakers, we make our questionnaires available in multiple languages and reach out to potential respondents in their native languages. This ensures that our surveys reflect the views of all residents, regardless of their linguistic or cultural backgrounds.


For example, our surveys in New York City are conducted simultaneously in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian since each of these languages is spoken at home by 2% of the population. We can also offer surveys in Filipino, French, Vietnamese, Korean, or any other language commonly spoken by a community’s residents.


Learn more about Zencity's methods to ensure representativeness.


Calculating results

As survey responses come in, we use a common technique for our Community Survey and Premium Pulse surveys 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. For surveys conducted in larger communities, we can also account for geographic characteristics in the weighting process, so that the views of residents from all areas of the community are reflected in the results.


It’s a way of understanding how much to “listen to” a given respondent’s answer as we assemble the total score, making sure no demographic group is overrepresented or underrepresented in the calculation.


For community surveys, 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). Averages of 3.6 are counted as positive. The overall satisfaction score, then, is the weighted percentage of residents who gave an overall positive rating.


For Blockwise surveys, we employ another adjustment technique called post-stratification to correct for any under- or oversampling and maximize representativeness of the results.


Accessing your results

To access your Community Survey or Blockwise results:

Every time you enter your survey dashboard, you will see your overall satisfaction score as accurate to the last 90-day period. That means that each day, as new responses are recorded and raked, we recalculate the percentage of satisfied residents using data from that day and the previous 90 days. This rolling time frame ensures you always have access to your most updated score.


To ensure you can also match your scores to your annual planning timelines, the reports you see at the conclusion of each survey cycle will present your overall satisfaction score for a capped time period of a quarter or half a year.


Finally, we want to note that our standard for determining the statistical validity of a demographic group is collecting at least 50 responses. In other words, we believe that’s the minimum number of responses needed in order to draw any meaningful conclusions from the data.


To access your Premium Pulse survey results:

As soon as your results are ready, you will receive an executive report sent to your email and available at any time in your Zencity dashboard.




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