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Survey: Pensacola Gets Thumbs Up

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City of Pensacola
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The numbers are in from the new City of Pensacola Resident Satisfaction Survey, which gauges residents’ feeling about city services, Pensacola’s image and its business environment, to name a few.

Respondents once again gave high marks to the availability of basic city services, such as fire and police protection, along with parks and recreation, said Amy Newburn – who oversaw the 6th annual numbers-crunch by the Haas Business Center at the University of West Florida. She says this survey was conducted using some new procedures.

“This year, for the first time, we moved to a completely online survey, which is different from what we had done in the past few years,” said Newburn. “Where we were still doing telephone calls using our call system, and doing ‘intercept surveys.’”

An intercept survey is used to gather on-site feedback at public locales such as restaurants. But that was then, and this is now. The new method involved sending more than 10,000 postcards, promoting the survey’s online link.

“We also sent out emails to registered voters [and] targeted advertising on social media,” Newburn said. “We tried to recruit online participation as much as possible across various, different sectors. And it increased our participation by 55% this year. So we were pretty pleased with that.”

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Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Amy Newburn, Director of Market Research, Haas Business Ctr.

More than half of respondents — 52% — said they were either very satisfied or satisfied with the ease of obtaining information about city services. Some longtime concerns were reflected once again, such as street lighting and sidewalks.

One area of emphasis for the Haas Center, said Newburn, was providing context for the survey questions.

“Instead of just asking about general satisfaction, we would say, ‘over the past year, do you feel like the city has improved this measure?’ Or, ‘Do you say that you’re satisfied with the roads in your neighborhood?’” said Newburn. “So we’re trying to find more context for the individuals to really relate to when they’re answering that question.”

“We sort of asked all new questions; we’re at a new baseline, and it doesn’t really compare as well to the one we had. But it allowed us to establish a new baseline,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.

“It was interesting; they told me that as we extended the survey period, we went up fairly significantly in our transparency,” said Robinson. “Those who answered before the [Dec. 7] cyberattack were lower than those that answered after the cyberattack on transparency. So we definitely see a boost in that direction.”

And the new procedure, said the mayor, is here to stay.

“This will be sort of the new baseline, and we’ll work off that,” the mayor said. “You can get the information – we have the survey – it’s just if you read it without any context, I mean it will have what it says. We think it’s a baseline that will allow us to do future surveys and kind of figure out where we are with citizen engagement as we move forward.”

While sticking with some of the familiar themes that have been used since day one in the surveys, Haas’ Amy Newburn says one of the new variables was the particular goals of the Robinson administration.

“We recalculated the types of questions to be very in-line with what they were already doing internally,” Newburn said. “We re-tooled the survey instrument itself to be in-line with the broad goals, as well as specific departmental goals that they had, as well as some new things like asking about interaction with particular city units.”

In the six surveys performed since 2014, Newburn has noticed there’s been a lot of change over that time; aligning and increasing the perception of satisfaction or priorities in certain areas.

“After the flood of 2014, how did the city deal with the infrastructure? They spent millions of dollars addressing that issue,” said Newburn. “But how did people feel about that in their neighborhoods? So for us, it’s really been fascinating to watch the real-time reactions to things as they come in.”

Discussions already are underway at the Haas Center for the 2020 Resident Satisfaction Survey.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.