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Digital or paper? We let survey respondents decide

Technology nudges society further into the future every day, but there are some aspects of life that should stay a little less technologically advanced.

Our data shows that how we enable community members to respond to their districts’ surveys is one of those areas.

School survey
Thousands of surveys are returned to School Perceptions each year, where they are manually entered into our system to ensure that all respondents' opinions matter.

Our community surveys generally are issued in paper form, and each survey contains two important elements: a randomly generated, one-time-use online access code and a postage-paid envelope. These are key to allowing respondents to select how they will share their opinions.

If a respondent prefers to respond online, all he or she has to do is enter the code at our website and discard the paper survey. Those respondents who prefer to fill out the paper survey can use the envelope and it will be returned directly to School Perceptions and entered into our results system.

We know that offering these options is important as not everyone can or prefers to respond online. The percentage of paper responses varies from community to community, but it’s important to remember that the paper surveys also act as “interactive newsletters” for your district. Regardless of whether a paper survey is filled out or if it’s read and kept on their counter, it’s an important way for the district to directly reach out and inform its stakeholders

We know that there are some clear factors that can influence the number of paper responses:

1. The average age of your survey pool. Generally speaking, older folks are more likely to respond via a paper survey. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this, from their technology comfort level to whether or not they actually own a smart phone or computer.

2. How rural your community is overall. While broadband access is a given in many urban areas, some rural areas lack universal access to it, leaving pockets of residents without easy or economical access.

3. Socioeconomic conditions. Without a computer or a smartphone, the only way to respond is via a paper survey. While most community libraries do offer free internet access, not everyone will take the extra step to seek out a place to take their survey online.

In some cases, people who prefer to respond with a paper survey are also members of a key group of people: those that vote. In our community survey work, we know that senior citizens take their voting responsibility seriously and, therefore, it’s important to get their opinions prior to a community vote, especially in communities where our data predicts that a vote will be close.

Regardless of how people choose to respond to your survey, their opinion counts. We place a priority on high response rates. After all, that’s what gives you data you can use.

To learn more about our survey options, give us a call at 262.644.4300 or email


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