The survey as a public input tool in city parks and recreation departments : do representative surveys matter in decision making?
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Although most city departments use citizen surveys to gather information from the public, very few use probability sampling to ensure a representative sample of the population. This report takes a first look at how park and recreation departments use citizen surveys to gather input from the public. The purpose of this report is to explore the extent to which adequate representation of communities is considered in citizen surveys. This report uses two approaches. First, interviews with parks and recreation administrators in 13 U.S. cities are analyzed to compare the use of surveys across departments. Second, responses from two samples of visitors to Barton Springs (a representative stratified sample and a non representative online sample) are analyzed to find differences in responses between the two samples. Qualitative analysis of the interviews found that although citizen surveys are common, few managers conduct citizen surveys using probability samples. In addition, adequate representation of the population is not generally recognized as one of the principal benefits of citizen surveys. Responses to the Barton Springs survey suggest that there are important differences between probability samples and non probability samples. This report supports that sampling techniques and survey methodology have a significant impact the results of citizen surveys.