Community Survey Alternatives
September 1, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

The county I live in would like to survey residents regarding their preferences on specific issues. I am familiar with survey monkey type internet surveys which we will likely utilize. However many residents do not have access to internet. So we would like to make the survey available in another way like calling an 800 number, answering questions with the phone's keypad. I have searched but cannot find this kind of product. Any ideas or other alternatives are hugely appreciated!
posted by lake59 to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's wrong with the obvious, namely paper? Are you somewhere where the phone system is more reliable than the post office? Do people have text messaging, or is no cost to the people completing the survey a requirement?

Anyway, here's a forum post where people are plugging various touch tone survey systems. Googling 'touch tone survey [country]' is probably what you want to do.
posted by hoyland at 6:50 AM on September 1, 2012

If you can, please, as a survey researcher, have a firm or organization do this correctly. Sampling is hard - but there are people that can do it correctly.

Some specific issues:

A phone survey in your county would probably involve the organization getting all the phone numbers and then selecting some at random and then having a phone bank team call the numbers. With this, however, you'll miss all the folks that use cell phones exclusively or who use call waiting to screen calls.

Moreover, how are you going to recruit for your web-based survey? How would you find county residents on the web? It isn't like there is a directory of email addresses for your county. What's their incentive to take your survey?

And for both web and phone - you're going to miss people -- the poorest of the poor without a phone or email, the elderly, non-English speakers. Whereas a good survey organization has ways to mitigate these issues.

(Also if you do 2 different forms of the survey (web and phone or paper or whatever), you'll want to design the survey so that you check if the form impacted the answers at all.)

It'll cost some money, but if the county really wants to know how people feel, this is the only accurate way to do it.

(How to find a firm? First try the local university's survey research center if one exists. You can also search for survey within the local university's site and see if anyone has any ideas. Also try to search for a local firm or contact them for a recommendation. You'll probably want to have at least 2 organizations give you a bid so that you're less likely to be taken for a ride.)

FWIW, I am a survey researcher and more to the point, I was hired by a faculty member for a number of summers during grad school to make phone calls for my County's government to ask about attitudes toward the permitting process.
posted by k8t at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Paper's a great idea but costly when considering postage and manual processing. The forum you linked to looks interesting. Seems many of their solutions are packaged as part of a larger service or long commitment. I may give a few a call on Monday, though our budget is meager if existent at all so need to find a bare bones solution.

I followed your advice, looking around using Google and learned that TDE (Telephone Data Entry) may be what i am looking for but most of the info was about setting up my own server using open-source software called Asterisk
posted by lake59 at 8:30 AM on September 1, 2012

If you don't have the budget to actually survey the county properly, I suggest that you do focus groups (but again, hire someone that knows what they are doing.) It will be next-to-pointless to do it incorrectly.
posted by k8t at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2012

All good points k8t! Our plan is to market the survey with newspaper, fliers, maybe postal patron mail (if we can raise the $$). The respondent would be responsible to go to the web OR call an 800 number to answer questions. We are not planning on doing an out-calling campaign (no $$)
posted by lake59 at 8:35 AM on September 1, 2012

k8t, we are also considering focus groups where the survey would be marketed as well. This would be done with assistance from our land-grant university, experienced in focus groups.
posted by lake59 at 8:37 AM on September 1, 2012

Unless you have a huge incentive (like $25+), no one is going to reply to ads. Also, equally important, the sample will be completely not representative.
posted by k8t at 9:32 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with k8t. A badly done survey (unrepresentative sampling, e.g.) is worse than no survey, say the people who run my work's survey program. A well-done survey doesn't have to cost the earth, but it's not cheap, either. A series of focus groups can be done relatively inexpensively and give you more and better information than a bad survey.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

k8t & rtha, I hear you and will pass your thoughts on to the county leadership. Still would like to know whether there is an inexpensive way to do a survey where folks call in, only because this was my task and would love to be able to complete that including the sideboards you described. Thanks!
posted by lake59 at 10:23 AM on September 1, 2012

You can tell them that you did the research and that a call in system would be pointless.
posted by k8t at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by lake59 at 12:18 PM on September 1, 2012

Not disagreeing with the advice to hire a professional, but I came up with lots of hits when I googled this. Look at for one.
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:08 PM on September 1, 2012

Mad Carew, it doesn't look like lime survey has any telephone interface. Am I missing it?
posted by lake59 at 12:18 PM on September 3, 2012

Bah. I misread the page. There was something about phone support but it wasn't for automated entry, it was for a person entering data from a phone interview.

I apologize. In penance, I googled further and found
posted by Mad_Carew at 1:03 PM on September 4, 2012

If you or your organisation has anyone with basic programming skills, you could build something with fairly cheaply and easily. They charge $2 per month and 3ยข per minute for a US/Canada number. Their API is setup such that it posts to a script on your server with each button press. A basic script on your server could then record the answer and provide the next question.
posted by cspurrier at 2:53 PM on September 4, 2012

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