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FAQs

General 

1. What is CivicPulse? 


CivicPulse is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering local and state governments through shared insights. Our work involves generating knowledge of and for local and state governments through national surveys of local and state officials. You can learn more about us here.

2. How can I stay up to date with CivicPulse’s work? 
 

You can sign up to receive our newsletter and follow us on X (Twitter) and LinkedIn.  

3. Can I get involved with CivicPulse through a paid position, internship, or volunteer work? 

 

There are several ways to get involved with CivicPulse. We are always looking for a broad range of skills and interests that support our work. If you are interested in open positions, internships, or volunteer work, please inquire by sending us an email. If you are a local government official and want to take part in our work, you can join our survey panel

 

4. Can I donate to CivicPulse? 
 

Yes! We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit and donations are tax-deductible. You can donate here

 

5. What is CivicPulse’s political stance? 

 

CivicPulse is an independent, nonpartisan organization, and as such, we do not have a political stance. Our goal is to enhance all local and state governments regardless of their Party breakdown.

 

6. How do I see what CivicPulse has done?

Many of our research products are available on our website. We regularly post research briefs, research reports, and partner reports on our research landing page. There, you can also find links to our Threats and Harassment and Diversity and Representation dashboards. We are also in the process of updating our data portal, where you can register for a free account to access some (but not yet all!) of our deidentified datasets. We’ve been cited in multiple academic papers, accessible here, and referenced by news outlets like NPR and the Washington Post. You can find links to these articles here.

Survey Participants  

1. How was I selected to be part of this survey?  
 

Each year we collect the publicly available contact information for government officials in the United States, at the local and state levels. For each survey, we select the relevant group of officials (i.e., policymakers, heads of finance, clerks) and invite them to participate. If you received one of our surveys, it means you were randomly selected from our list of government officials based on the survey topic. We value your input and hope you’ll consider being part of the effort to provide more data-driven insights to local government.
 

2. I’m having technical difficulties with completing the survey. What should I do? 
 

Please contact us, and we will ensure you receive help.
 

3. I received an email for someone who no longer works here. Can I take the survey instead? 
 

Yes, but please respond to the email to inform us that you are now filling this position. 

4. I’m just one of many in my local government and my views might not be representative of the area, should I still answer the survey?  
 

Yes. We are interested in your perspective as a local official and understand that each individual has different views. Our public reports and data releases will not connect your responses to your specific locality or local government without your consent.
 

5. I am a local government official and have not received an invitation to participate. Can I take CivicPulse surveys in the future?  
 

Yes. CivicPulse is constantly working to ensure our survey panel represents a wide range of local officials across the country, and we welcome your participation. Please sign up to join our survey panel.
 

6. How long are the surveys?
 

While each survey varies, the average survey time is around 8 minutes.
 

7. Can I take the survey over the phone or submit a paper copy? 
 

No. Our surveys are available online only. If you experience technical difficulties, please contact us.
 

8. How will my answers be used? 
 

Your responses will be de-identified and then used to discover useful patterns and trends relevant to local governments. These insights are shared through reports, scholarly articles, social media, and other means, while also being made available to local governments. To see how past surveys were used, please visit our research page.
 

9. Will my responses remain confidential?
 

Yes. We treat the security of your personal information with the utmost care. No data is released until all personally identifying information is removed.
 

10. Can I see the results of the survey?
 

Yes. One of our goals is to produce data that can be used by government officials to learn from each other. After each survey we send all participants, who request it, a link to the summary report of the findings. These reports are also available on our website. You can stay up to date with our work and survey results by signing up for our newsletter
 

11. How do you choose your content? Why are you asking about these topics?
 

Our surveys focus on content that can inform local officials and their stakeholders. They include topics of local government and national issues where the local perspective matters. The content is developed both internally by CivicPulse and externally by other researchers.
 

11. Are the surveys designed to support a particular political view?
 

No. CivicPulse is an independent, nonpartisan organization and our research is presented as such.
 

12. Why am I being asked demographic questions?
 

We use demographic data to ensure that a broad range of views are represented in our surveys and to create survey weights so that our findings are representative of the nation more broadly. However, we do not require an answer to these questions and you are welcome to skip them.

Survey Services

1. What are my options for surveying local government officials with CivicPulse?  
 

You can apply to field a custom survey at any time. To learn more, review the questions below, navigate to our Survey Services, or email us at info@civicpulse.org
 

2. How do I initiate a survey with CivicPulse? 

The best way to initiate a survey with CivicPulse is by emailing us at info@civicpulse.org. You do not need a finalized question to initiate work with us. We are happy to help you develop your ideas into a final product.

 

3. What governments and roles do you cover in your surveys?  

  

Our contact database of over 500,000 local and state government officials includes a standardized set of roles in all municipalities, townships, counties, school districts, and state legislative districts as well as local and state civil service departments. For a detailed list, see the respondent type table on our Survey Services page. 

4. How do you select survey participants?

 

CivicPulse combines contact information from multiple vendors with information collected through our own research and correspondence. All contacts in our database are updated on a quarterly basis. We also connect all contact records to their corresponding government units as listed in the United States Census of Governments. This allows us to make use of community demographics and government characteristics in sampling and analysis, including the production of survey weights.  

5. How do you classify contacts into different types and subtypes?  

  

Because title and department names vary greatly across localities and states, CivicPulse maintains a standardized respondent typology that is independent of any specific name. Our respondent types/subtypes are organized around (a) the typical responsibilities associated with the role/department and (b) the selection process by which the individuals in that role typically obtain the position (e.g., elected, appointed, or hired).  

6. How do you choose who to contact for a survey?  

  

For a given survey, we work with our research partner(s) to identify the appropriate respondent type/subtypes which would be most relevant for their project. Sometimes additional restrictions of the sampling frame are appropriate, such as restrictions based on community demographics, geographic region, or government type.  

7. How representative are your surveys?  

  

Our surveys routinely include government officials from all 50 states and across urban and rural communities. Consistent with nationally representative mass public surveys, our surveys modestly overrepresent more urban and populated localities. To address this, we provide survey weights based on conventional raking procedures.  

 

8. How do you maintain panel participation?  

  

CivicPulse relies on the voluntary participation of government leaders and employees around the United States. To minimize survey drop-off, CivicPulse works with our research partners to ensure their questions are translated into survey items that are relevant to the range of contexts in which our respondents work. Building on our years of experience, we work carefully to ensure our surveys are well received by officials across the political spectrums (e.g. urban vs. rural, conservative vs. liberal).  

 

In addition, CivicPulse sends a monthly newsletter out to the respondent community with findings from our recent surveys. The findings are written up as short research briefs. Each research brief identifies 1-2 key findings from the given survey, providing relevant context and drawing out key implications. To see our previous research briefs, you can visit our research briefs page. Delivering insights back to the community conveys not only that we and the researchers we work with respect their time, but also that there is benefit for them taking the time to answer our questions. 

9. 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.

10. Will it be possible to match the survey responses with external data sources?  
 

Researchers who would like to combine our survey data with external data have two options. First, we provide a service of matching survey responses with other locality-level data provided by the researcher. Second, researchers may choose to work, in collaboration with CivicPulse, with a dataset that includes locality information under our data security and privacy guidelines. 
 
For both options, the external data will eventually be coarsened to protect respondent identity (e.g., population will be binned into quintiles), and CivicPulse will charge a small fee for labor. Applicants interested in working with external data should specify so in their proposal. 

11. 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 and state 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.

Research and Data Users

1. I’m an academic researcher. What are the use cases for CivicPulse data for me? 

 

To view a complete list of academic papers citing CivicPulse data and research, you can navigate to our dedicated academic papers page. Many of the authors listed on that page started working with our data by applying for survey services. For detailed information regarding our survey services and how to apply, please reference the survey services section above and visit our survey services page.  

 

If you would like data on a specific topic and are unable to engage us in survey services at this time, please email us at info@civicpulse.org. We have several restricted access datasets that can be shared with researchers but require confidentiality due to personally identifying information. 

2. I’m a practitioner and don’t have time to download data. Are there other ways to engage with CivicPulse resources?  

 

There are multiple ways to engage with CivicPulse resources including signing up for our monthly newsletter that includes research briefs or reading and citing our research. Contributing options at CivicPulse include suggesting a topic, joining our survey panel if you are a government employee, and donating to support our operating expenses. 

3. What topics do your data and research cover?  

 

CivicPulse covers a wide array of topics that are pressing to local and state officials. Topics CivicPulse has previously covered include workforce recruitment and retention, threats and harassment, constituent engagement, infrastructure development, finance and budgeting, energy and environment, technology adoption, policy and demographic representation, multilevel intergovernmental relations, political polarization, and threats and harassment. CivicPulse strives to produce data and research that are timely and relevant to local and state governments, so the range of topics CivicPulse covers is often growing.

4. You say you produce “benchmarks” on some topics. What does that mean? 

 

Benchmarking provides an empirical foundation against which local and state officials’ responses can be compared over time. To see CivicPulse’s benchmarking in actions, navigate to our Diversity and Representation in Local Government project, which includes data dating back to 2013, or our Threats and Harassment in Local Government project that covers responses since the summer of 2022. Our annual survey of government financial officers on finance and budgeting practices in local government is upcoming, so stay tuned for information about that benchmarking project. 

5. Can I see a list of all the research CivicPulse has produced?  

 

Sure. Our research is available on our research page, which has links to ongoing projects as well as research briefs, research reports, and partner reports. Academic papers citing CivicPulse data can be found here while news mentions of CivicPulse research are available here.

6. Can I see a list of all the data sets CivicPulse has released?  

 

Publicly released datasets are available in the data portal, which is accessible by registering for a free account. We are in the process of streamlining our data upload policies, which will include establishing a regular cadence for data uploads. 

7. Why do I have to create an account to access data?  

Creating an account helps us understand who is using CivicPulse data so that we can better track who accesses and cites our work.  

8. Can I request access to data that hasn’t yet been published on your website? 

 

If you are looking for data that we haven’t yet published on our website, you can email us at info@civicpulse.org to inquire about access.

9. Where can I see a definition of data variables?  

 

All publicly available datasets have a corresponding reference guide that includes data variables. If you would like to contract with us, standard variables are available in the application guidelines document on our survey services page. 

10. How do I cite CivicPulse data? 

 

When referencing CivicPulse, please use the following acknowledgement statement:  

 

“This study uses data collected by CivicPulse. CivicPulse is a non-profit research organization that conducts representative surveys of government officials in the United States. For more information, see www.civicpulse.org.” 

11. Where do you get your data from? 

 

CivicPulse survey data are gathered from randomly selected local and state officials, depending on the scope of the survey. (For example, an accountant employed by their local government would not be invited to a survey of local elected officials, and a mayor would not be invited to a survey of top county officials). We maintain our own database of more than 500,000 local and state government officials. 

12. What software do I need to read the data? 

 

You can use any software that is CSV compatible. 

13. How do I find research parameters for specific surveys, etc? 

Research parameters are explained in the corresponding reference guide for each dataset. 

14. I don’t see the answer to my question. How do I contact you to ask it? 

 

You can contact us by emailing info@civicpulse.org with any of your questions. 

General
Survey
Survey Services
Research and Data Users
Apply for Content
  1. Who is included in your respondent pool? How representative is it?  

    CivicPulse maintains a dynamically updated contact list of elected executives and 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 a 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 populated localities than the national average. To address this, we provide survey weights based on conventional raking procedures.  
     

  2. How do I propose content for a future survey?  

    We offer two options for applying for content. You can apply through our Rolling Applications process or Calls for Proposals. Please see below for further information on these two options.  
     

  3. When is the next deadline to submit a proposal?  

    There is no deadline if you submit a proposal through the Rolling Applications process. The current deadline for Call for Proposals can be found here.    
     

  4. 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.
     

  5. 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 (i.e., officials representing rural vs. urban areas).
     

  6. Why don’t you offer 1,000 respondents per survey like other survey companies?  

    Due to the limited number of local government officials, reaching 1,000 respondents is much more challenging than surveying the general population.  
     

  7. How do I access past CivicPulse data?   

    Our data is available on our website. Please note that sometimes data is contractually under embargo for up to eighteen months before it is made available.  
     

  8. Does CivicPulse provide Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for its surveys? 

    No.  University researchers are encouraged to get approval through their institution. Please contact us if you need additional help. 
     

  9. Can I survey a particular sub population of your national panel? 

    Yes. You can survey a sub population if you submit a proposal through the Rolling Applications process. The Calls for Proposals only survey national samples.  
     

  10. Does CivicPulse survey outside of the United States? 

    No, not at this time. 
     

  11. Do I need to secure funding before applying? 

    No, we do not require proof of funding to apply. Once your application is accepted, we will request payment prior to fielding your questions. 

 

Rolling Applications 
 
  1. Is there a limit to how many applications I can submit each year? 

    No.  
     

  2. How much does it cost for a survey submitted through the Rolling Applications process?
     

    Pricing information will be available soon, please check back.  

 

Calls for Proposals 

 

  1. How many Calls for Proposals do you issue each year? 

    We currently announce two calls a year to survey policymakers and a rotating selection of top civil servant positions. 
     

  2. How much does it cost for a survey submitted through the Calls for Proposals process?

    The price varies so please visit Calls for Proposals for more information.  

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