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Shorter Survey = More Responses

We're number geeks. We break down survey responses into digestible numbers. We compare schools’ averages to percentiles. And because we’re curious geeks, we track survey response rates. Does the length of your survey change how many people respond? Is it better to have a shorter or longer community survey?


Typically, our community-wide mailings are three different lengths, four pages, eight pages, and digital-only postcard surveys. All three lengths have their strengths and weaknesses: when you have eight pages to work with, you have room for more images and a few more questions.

When you have four pages, you’re slightly more limited to how much information you can put on each page. But it’s substantially less time for your residents to read. When you send out a postcard, the mailing is easy and direct, but people can’t preview the survey before taking it, and online-only may make it difficult for some residents to complete the survey. But does survey length change how many people respond? We looked at the response rates from the different surveys to find out.


As a baseline, our community-wide surveys had an average response rate of 20%. This is calculated by dividing the number of surveys shared by the total number of completed surveys.


By far the most common survey length is our eight-page surveys. These surveys allow for the most information to go out to the public, provide ample space for questions, and leave lots of open space for respondents to leave their comments, questions, or suggestions. In 2023, our eight-page community surveys had an average response rate of 19%. Our four-page surveys had an average response rate of 27%. 


However, just because two surveys have the same number of pages doesn’t mean they take the same amount of time to read and answer. One survey might be very text-heavy, while another has many large images. So, we took all of our four- and eight-page surveys from 2023 and found out how many words were in each.

All our four-page surveys, with an average response rate of 27%, had an average word count of 1,079 words. The shortest survey was 974 words, and the longest was 1,177 words.

Meanwhile, all our eight-page surveys, with an average response rate of 19% (a decrease of 8%) had an average word count of 1,734, an increase of 655 words. The longest survey had a word count of 2,202 words and the shortest had a word count of 1,294 words.

Takeaway: The longer your survey, the fewer the responses.

Of course, survey response rate is based on many factors beyond word count, such as

community engagement and communication with the public. If you are interested in getting feedback from the residents of your school district, School Perceptions will provide you with the tools and support you need for a successful survey. If you have any questions or would like to get started, contact us today!


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Lindsey Naze, Data Analyst.


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