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 In Case Studies, Current Events, Data Analysis Tools, Data Resources for Nonprofits, Team

One of my favourite things to do with this blog is to highlight when organizations use data in new ways to improve the world around us, so I’m especially excited about today’s post.

The Anniston Star (a local newspaper in Alabama) used Veracio (an online survey tool the team at Datassist helped develop) to gather feedback from readers on local and national politics. Veracio’s built-in weighting feature helps improve survey results and ensured the results the Star received were representative of the population there.

Giving the People a Voice

When Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) of the 3rd Congressional District in Alabama decided — like many Republican lawmakers — not to hold town hall meetings where constituents could express their concerns about local or national issues, many in the area felt they were left without a voice.

Editors at The Anniston Star decided to publish a series of stories on the situation and partnered with the team behind Veracio to produce a survey that could accurately gather feedback from local residents in a representative way to use as the basis for their series.

“We want to learn more about the viewpoints of people in the district. What’s important to them locally, what’s important to them nationally, and how do they view their elected leadership?”

Bob Davis, Anniston Star publisher and editor

We conducted an online survey to gather information from residents of the 3rd Congressional District on their current feelings about Congressman Rogers, President Donald Trump, and the issues they felt mattered most. The survey asked respondents to identify:

  • The most important local issues
  • The most important national issues
  • Their satisfaction levels with Congressman Rogers and President Trump
  • What they’d say to Congressman Rogers, given the opportunity
  • Their political affiliation

The survey was heavily publicized in both online and print editions of the Star and ran for 12 days. It received 563 responses, with 96% of respondents indicating they lived in the 3rd Congressional District. (2.58% were unsure of their district and 1.50% lived outside the district.)

Weighting for Improved Survey Results

The Star, like many papers, frequently runs reader opinion polls to get a sense of how the community views the issues of the day. But with Veracio’s weighting algorithms to improve survey results, they were able to paint a much clearer picture of the thoughts and feelings of the district as a whole.

Respondents were asked what county they lived in, to ensure results were confined to those living in the 3rd Congressional District. They were also asked their age and racial or ethnic background, so we could use US Census data to ensure different age and ethnic groups within the district were accurately represented.

Take a look at how weighting the responses refined results:

When respondents were asked what the most pressing local issues were, the top answer was health care. The unweighted results also showed significant concerns about local business/economy, education, and employment. Once weighted, the results show that health care was a far higher priority for the average constituent.

This graph shows how weighting took survey answers and made them more representative of the population.

The pink bars represent weighted results, the blue bars, unweighted.


Similarly, a question about the most pressing national issue showed health care to be a top concern, but again, weighting responses by age and ethnicity pushed health care even higher.

Veracio improved survey results by weighting to make them more representative.

Even the results about respondents’ political affiliation were refined by weighting. The improved survey results are particularly valuable here since they help us ensure that no age or ethnic group with a particular political leaning is being oversampled.

Weighting improves survey results to paint a more accurate picture of the district.

On his paper’s experience using Veracio, editor Bob Davis says his team continues to learn from the experience, and that they’ll use the information gathered from Veracio’s improved survey results in many future stories.

Want to Improve Your Survey Results?

Whether you want to use weighting to make your survey results more accurate, or need help developing and implementing a data collection and analysis plan, the team at Datassist is at your service.

We worked side by side with the Anniston Star team every step of the way to help ensure the results of their survey were accurate and representative of the population they were studying. We can help your team too. Get in touch with us today to learn more.


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