-By Julia Steege-Reimann-
“In this day and age, it’s incumbent to not just let the squeaky wheel dominate the conversation. Our role as local government leaders is to solicit discussion and engender the voices of all,” said Mike Davis, City Administrator of Middleton, Wisconsin.
Since 2016 the City of Middleton has elevated resident voices through embracing the Polco online community engagement platform. Middleton has used the platform to poll residents, as well as to conduct scientific benchmarking surveys of resident needs.
“To really engage with all our residents is critical. Polco is the most viable way I can think of to do that. Polco fits a niche for local government that enables us to do our job better,” said Davis.
The more ways City leaders use Polco, the more success they find in engaging residents. As time goes by, the City continues to find new ways to better connect with residents.
When they began using Polco, Middleton’s leaders immediately found it helpful to see the difference between resident and non-resident responses.
“When we did our annual resident satisfaction survey with SurveyMonkey, we had about the same number of respondents as we have on Polco. But you could be doing SurveyMonkey from Russia for all we know,” said Davis. “When we use the Polco platform for polling, we know what district people are responding from even though the actual identity of the person is confidential.”
Middleton’s Parks Department used Polco to ask residents to vote on playground options. Being able to identify the out-of-state responses was useful to make a better-informed decision.
“It was helpful to document the number of out of state responses since we figured they might be from the vendor touting their product,” said Davis.
Middleton also plans to look closely at where feedback is coming from as they plan for an upcoming airport master plan.
“People from different parts of Middleton have different opinions on the airport. Our rural residents are not voting members of the community. It will be very helpful to see where they stand on the master plan,” said Davis.
This past year, Middleton decided to conduct The National Community Survey (The NCS) and The National Business Survey (The NBS) for the first time. Both surveys come from Polco’s survey science team National Research Center (NRC).
The NCS and The NBS use scientific sampling. They also use nationwide benchmarking against other similar communities to put results into context.
“With The NCS and The NBS, we engaged a lot more of the public and businesses than we ever have before. We had more people of color respond than ever before. These national surveys will give us a good benchmark for moving forward,” said Davis.
Davis says they were able to engage hundreds of residents with The NCS and The NBS after sending postcards to randomly selected households. Middleton used the results to inform their comprehensive plan.
“Middleton has great quality of life ratings, government performance, and economic ratings. This is notable given that The NCS and The NBS were administered right in the middle of COVID, and this is the first time Middleton conducted the surveys,” said Jade Arocha, Senior Program Analysts for Polco.
Davis says that Middleton is just getting started using Polco to make resident voices heard. He says they plan to use Polco Live to help them with the strategic planning process. Polco Live allows real-time polling to make live audience feedback useful and engaging.
Learn More about Polco.