For the first time in my 22-year tenure with the City, we conducted a scientific random selection survey of community residents through Polco/NRC, a national municipal survey company headquartered here in Middleton. The surveys were conducted from late September to October 22 of this year. We also surveyed a vast number of businesses in the City of Middleton through Polco/NRC, and over 100 businesses responded. Both surveys were funded through the City’s federal CARES Act funding due to surveys including several pandemic-related questions. That information and the overall information will provide a great benchmark for Middleton moving forward. See the results here:

For both surveys, I found the appendices to be of greater interest due to the benchmarking of over 300 other communities around the U.S. Over 2,500 residents received surveys, and about 664 responded. According to Polco/NRC:

“With a response rate of 26% for the NCS (residents) and 12% for the NBS (businesses), we’d say that both of these response rates were on the higher side of the typical range of response rates. The survey data for the NCS are weighted to community demographics – we use Census and American Community Survey data to achieve this. And the primary purposes of doing this are to apply corrections to the raw survey data that make it more representative, and more accurate.”

Also in the report:

“See the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s (AAPOR’s) Standard Definitions for more information:
A 95% confidence interval indicates that for every 100 random samples of this many residents, 95 of the confidence intervals created will include the “true” population response. This theory is applied in practice to mean that the “true” perspective of the target population lies within the confidence interval created for a single survey. For example, if 75% of residents rate a service as “excellent” or “good,” then the 4% margin of error (for the 95% confidence interval) indicates that the range of likely responses for the entire community is between 71% and 79%. This source of uncertainty is called sampling error.”

Furthermore for the residents’ survey:

“About 6% of the 2,700 surveys mailed were returned because the housing unit was vacant or the postal service was unable to deliver the survey as addressed. Of the remaining 2,534 households that received the survey, 664 completed the survey, providing an overall response rate of 26%. Of the 664 completed surveys, 502 were completed online. Additionally, responses were tracked by Alder District; response rates by District ranged from 17% to 38%.”

And for the business survey:

“About 26% of the 1,185 mailed invitations were returned because the business address was vacant or the postal service was unable to deliver the survey as addressed. Of the remaining 875 businesses that received the invitations to participate, 108 completed the survey, providing an overall response rate of 12%.”

My primary personal observations are the following:

• City of Middleton residents and businesses are very highly satisfied with the City’s conservancy and parks areas; public safety services (Police, EMS, Fire); Library and its services; and economic development to a slightly lesser level (despite the grim economy for main street businesses).
• Residents are also mostly satisfied with all other City services from a high level to a median level compared to national benchmarks.
• A major surprise to me was that residents reported only a 28% volunteering rate.
• Another major surprise was that business survey respondents gave relatively low scores to “shopping opportunities” in the City of Middleton. Given that we have about 70 restaurants and several retail shopping areas for a City of about 21,000 residents, this was a bit of a shocker and perhaps something to explore further.
• Residents gave the community middle of the pack ratings for being welcoming to people of diverse race and ethnic backgrounds. I believe this is something that we should use as a springboard to inspire greater action on the community’s equity initiatives.
• Both residents and businesses noted a lack of affordable housing and cost of living as very significant problems in the City, particularly for those who work but can not afford to live in Middleton.
• No surprise: a large number of businesses are facing daunting times surviving during the pandemic and its attendant economic decline. Business opinions are highly mixed on the forecast for activity in the next 6-12 months.

Past City resident surveys (2012-2019) can be found at this link on the City’s web site:

Mike Davis, City Administrator

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