Public Policy Surveys

One of the most important steps when creating your chamber’s public policy agenda is ensuring you have a thorough understanding your members’ opinions on the various issues. An effective way to gain that insight is by conducting an annual public policy survey. Taking the time to seek member input will not only provide you with a guidepost for your policy priorities, but it will also increase member engagement in your advocacy efforts.

Public policy surveys can be short – simply asking members what issues are most important to them with an open-ended question or two – or more in-depth, offering a series of multiple-choice questions on various policy positions. Some chambers choose to have the survey created and administered by a professional researcher, but most use a simple, free, web-based service such as SurveyMonkey® or Zoomerang®. Whatever method you choose, strive to keep your survey questions as neutral as possible. The survey tool doesn’t need to ‘sell’ a particular policy position, rather, the best surveys are those that are designed to objectively to gauge members’ opinions.

Most public policy surveys allow respondents to remain anonymous, which encourages honest feedback and opinions. But you should plan to collect some basic demographic information, such as size and type of business, to ensure you have representation from a cross-section of your membership and to enable you to stratify the results. You can offer an option for them to include their name and contact information too, which is a great way to build your grassroots database if they willingly provide it.

Another choice you will need to make about your policy survey is whether or not, and with whom, you will share the results. A policy survey is an important tool for understanding where your members stand, but it should not be viewed as the sole input on your policy positions. As such, it is not recommended that you take a policy position based solely on the survey results. Often, low support for a specific issue may point to the need for more education on the subject rather than opposition.

With this in mind, broadly sharing detailed results of your public policy survey is not a good practice. While you will want to be as transparent as possible when developing your policy agenda, allowing interpretation of the survey results by many could potentially back you and your chamber into an ideological corner or an unintentional policy position. A better approach is to provide highlights or an executive summary of the results to a limited group such as your board or policy committee. Otherwise, plan to keep the raw data close at hand.

However, having the ability to accurately convey the collective opinion of the business community on a priority policy issue can also be a positive opportunity for your chamber. In some cases, publicly releasing the strong support or opposition of your membership on a particular issue could strengthen your influence with elected leaders and bring more attention to an issue.

Annual surveys are not the only tool for gathering input from your members about public policy issues. Some additional methods include:
  • Periodic short surveys on a single issue embedded in an e-newsletter or legislative update.
  • A question or conversation thread in online discussion group or social media site.
  • Concerns brought directly to staff by a member or group of members.
  • Informal discussions with members or a group of members.
Remember, asking your members what they think drives engagement, increases understanding of the issues and encourages interest in your chamber’s advocacy work.

Public Policy Survey Samples

(Please send us your Public Policy Survey samples and help add to this list.)

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Last updated: 1/27/2017

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