Ring-Ring – Albemarle Calling

Starting next week, randomly selected Albemarle County residents will be called and asked to participate in an 18 minute telephone survey regarding their satisfaction with county services and policies.  If you live in Albemarle County and receive such a call, The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to make the time to answer the survey.

Albemarle County conducts this exercise every two years.  Since the beginning of the survey in 2002, it has been conducted by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center’s Center for Survey Research.  The most recent (2006) survey results may be found here.

Quoted in Albemarle County’s Media Release, County Executive Robert W. Tucker Jr. said:

The Survey is an important tool for gauging public priorities and issues of concern, and the results are very helpful as we make critical policy and resource decisions.

If this is the true goal of the survey, why are dollars not attached to the questions?  In 2006, when asked about 22 county functions almost all were rated as important or somewhat important. 

One must question the survey design if respondents have the opportunity to rank everything as important doesn’t that mean nothing is more important?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes conducting such a citizen survey has value but questions the freshness and vision of the personnel involved in the question making process.  While many of the questions are repeated for consistency year after year, when was the last time an outsider reviewed the process?  In the accounting business after several years of audits, it is generally accepted accounting procedures to change firms, regardless of the level of satisfaction with the vendor.

At the conclusion of this cycle, it’s time for Albemarle County to make a call — to a new survey vendor.  This vendor should be engaged early to review the previously compiled survey data and engage with government, political and outside stakeholders to determine the direction for future satisfaction surveys.

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2 responses

  1. While many of the questions are repeated for consistency year after year, when was the last time an outsider reviewed the process?

    Uh. Every single time they do it. As you noted, this survey is always done by the Weldon Cooper Center, no slouches in this realm.

    In the accounting business after several years of audits, it is generally accepted accounting procedures to change firms, regardless of the level of satisfaction with the vendor. At the conclusion of this cycle, it’s time for Albemarle County to make a call — to a new survey vendor.

    Accounting != polling. In the world of polling, consistency is the most important thing than, say, switching survey firms because it seems like a neat idea. Also, I imagine you’d agree that doing this inexpensively is also important, and there is no way to get a better deal than the Weldon Cooper Center.

  2. I do agree that Weldon Cooper Center is a high quality firm that provides solid value.

    I appreciate that Weldon Cooper is an outsider to Albemarle County but by virtue of conducting the survey every year they have become an insider to this practice. I believe the process would benefit from a new set of eyes.

    The formulation of the survey questions and suggested responses is one of the least transparent things in Albemarle County government. In looking for areas of agreement, I anticipate you would agree that more “sunshine” and citizen involvement in the survey construction process might improve the end product.

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