FAQ FOR RESEARCHERS
1. What is the mission of CivicPulse?
CivicPulse is a nonprofit organization which seeks to provide a sustainable source of insights about local government officials that can benefit researchers, citizens, journalists, and policymakers on an ongoing basis. Policymakers’ time is a scarce resource, and there has been growing distrust among public officials toward online surveys. To meet these challenges, CivicPulse has established a cooperative national survey platform which policymakers can trust and which researchers can count on for ongoing use.
2. Who is included in your respondent pool? How representative is it?
CivicPulse maintains a dynamically updated contact list of elected executives and elected legislators associated with all townships, municipalities, and counties in the United States with populations of 1,000 or more (98% coverage). Each survey includes a random sample of officials from this list. Invitations to participate in each survey are sent via email and implemented through Qualtrics. Our first-time invitees respond at a rate of 7-8%; of these, over 80% of respondents agree to participate again in future surveys. Our surveys routinely include representation of policymakers from nearly all 50 states and both major political parties. Consistent with nationally representative mass public surveys, our surveys modestly overrepresent more urban and more populated localities than the national average. To address this, we provide survey weights based on conventional raking procedures.
3. How do I propose survey content for a future CivicPulse survey? When is the next deadline to submit a proposal?
You can submit a survey proposal. Our current Call for Proposals is detailed here. The deadline to apply in this round is September 20, 2019.
4. What kinds of proposals will you accept?
We have three key requirements. (1) Your survey module falls within the time constraints (see FAQ #6 below). (2) Your survey is engaging and user-friendly, i.e., it is easy to follow, unlikely to induce anger, reasonably relevant to local policymakers, and not designed to advance partisan goals. (3) Your survey neither attempts to induce behavior change nor deceives the subject (explicit hypotheticals are okay).
We have two additional recommendations. First, although we do not prohibit survey experiments, we ask that you consider, wherever possible, using a descriptive format instead, since experiments tend to be more likely to annoy respondents. If you do choose to propose a survey experiment, please make it as non-intrusive as possible. Second, we recommend considering open-ended questions to allow respondents to explain their opinions; our past experiences suggest they respond very well to these questions. On average, the completion rate of open-ended questions in the past has been 65-70%.
5. How does the proposal review process work?
While we will try to facilitate all of the survey modules that fit our proposal criteria, space is limited! To fairly allocate space, we have created a two-step review process. The first step is a non-anonymous review by our team to ensure your proposal fits the required criteria. The second is an anonymous external peer review with scholars who have experience with elite surveys and local government.
6. How much survey time can I have? What is the sample size? How much does it cost?
You can choose between one of two options:
(1) 500 respondents, at $1500 a minute, for a maximum of 3 minutes
(2) 200 respondents, at $600 a minute, for a maximum of 5 minutes
The fees help cover the cost of acquisition of proprietary datasets, and the cost of labor for policymaker outreach, survey programming and implementation, and post-survey data processing.
7. Why do you limit the number and length of the surveys you field?
Our hope is that CivicPulse can create a sustainable resource for the collection of information and data about local government on an ongoing basis. This means treating policymaker survey time like the common-pool, scarce resource that it is. In deciding how many surveys to run, we take the long view to maintain the viability of this resource for years to come.
8. Will I receive the identities of the survey respondents?
No. A key component of our survey platform is that public officials can trust that their identities will remain confidential. We de-identify all survey responses before making them publicly available. However, by matching public officials to Census information about the geographic areas they represent, we do provide the ability to draw inferences about subsamples of elected officials (e.g., officials representing rural vs. urban areas).
9. Can I use CivicPulse to target specific subgroups of public officials?
Not at this time. In our current sampling and survey operations, we do not support polls targeted at specific subgroups.
10. What are the standard delivery items included in each survey?
All surveys will include the following standard delivery survey questions and demographic data: Link to Common Content
11. Why don’t you offer 1,000 respondents per survey like other survey companies?
Because of the limited number of local elected officials, reaching 1,000 respondents is much more challenging than when surveying the general population.
12. How do I access past CivicPulse data?
We intend to eventually make all de-identified survey data publicly available. However, some of the data we have collected is contractually under embargo for up to eighteen months. If you wish to access the responses to a specific set of questions we have fielded in the past, please write us at email@example.com and we’ll do our best to share that data with you.
13. What if I have additional questions that aren’t listed here?
Please send any additional questions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.