Thanks to Portsmouth Lib Dems for sharing their recent successful survey. We asked Suzy, Josh, Steve and Stu to share with us how they had turned a burning issue into a brilliant campaign and leaving a legacy for the next campaign in each ward.
Initially, we identified the most important local issue – parking – in one of the wards, after two democratically introduced Residents’ Parking Zones were taken away by the Conservative administration. It then became apparent that this issue was relevant across every target ward, but we realised that some areas already had parking zones, so we designed an alternative survey for those areas.
Before we started designing it, we decided we wanted to genuinely ask residents their opinion on some suggestions we were presenting, rather than it being exclusively a data mining exercise. As a result, we decided to make this a consultation exercise on parking and traffic issues, such as speeding, air quality, commercial vehicle parking and cycling.
Our original campaign plan was for a two-colour riso but we changed it to a full-colour externally printed A3 folded survey. We did warded versions, which allowed for candidate promotion and hyper-localised questions, and consciously kept the party branding subtle to tempt people into opening it and responding.
We broke the design into separate issue sections, to try and prevent overcrowding it. Each section opened with a picture and quote from a candidate/cllr contextualising the issue.
We included a speak-up question, details of the same survey online and an opportunity to submit further ideas and comments – either handwritten and returned with the survey or by email. The FREEPOST address was located so that the survey could be returned in the same envelope it was delivered in.
Two volunteer artworkers worked alongside a core group of other local activists to write and sense check the content.
We put addressed labels on every survey and stuffed them in an unsealed windowed envelope. Ward teams were encouraged to knock and drop a minimum of one polling district or more if they had the capacity, over a period of two months. We had significantly more returns in the areas that were knocked and dropped.
During the knock and drop, we only mentioned the freepost option if they were resistant to leaving it for us to collect in the usual way. Some surveys were posted with freepost envelopes included to inaccessible addresses.
This survey has seen the highest response rate of any warded survey we have ever done, with an estimated excess of 10% of households returning the survey at the time of writing.
A significant number of survey returns included handwritten or printed letters giving extra feedback on the issues. We also received many emails of a similar nature.
The only political question, the speak-up question, was answered by around one-third of responses. The area the survey was delivered to consisted of approximately 51,500 homes. At the time of writing, over 5,000 surveys have been returned.
Many more people than usual were willing to provide additional data, such as emails and telephone numbers, than we would usually expect.
We will be putting out a global warded leaflet, reporting back on the results of the survey. In addition, candidates have been advised to write response letters or emails to all residents who returned the survey, especially those who raised specific issues.
This piece of work will help inform Portsmouth Lib Dem policy and action, as and when we return to running the administration.
The level of engagement with residents has given candidates a significant boost in their local profile ahead of next May’s local elections. We now have an average of 700-800 emails across our target wards, with several now having over 1,000.
We have learnt that when doing a survey, focusing it on the needs of residents, and not an explicit political agenda, will maximise engagement.
Rather than putting out a planned leaflet for the sake of it, we invested more money, time and effort into something that we knew people cared about and people would engage with. At the time of writing, more than a month after the last surveys were delivered, we are still receiving replies on a daily basis.