Frequently Asked Questions
What is Westside Voices? Westside Voices is a community engagement tool open to all residents of the Westside of the Portland metropolitan area. Westside Voices provides an opportunity for residents to receive updates and weigh in on planning and community issues through short online surveys. Partnering organizations intend to use Westside Voices in addition to other forms of public engagement such as social media, websites, open houses and community meetings. We hope that residents view Westside Voices as a convenient way to provide input and stay informed about important community issues. Residents who join the panel have the option to respond to any of the surveys and focus groups offered by the partnering organizations.
What are the advantages of using an online platform for community engagement? Westside Voices provides its partners with a new and more effective way of engaging a broader spectrum of the public. Once you join Westside Voices, you are able to respond to questions and make additional comments on your own time and in your own words – and from anywhere with Internet access. While your identifying information is not associated with your comments and responses, Westside Voices collects key demographic information like city, county, age and gender to see how representative Westside Voices members are of the community. In a time of decreasing budgets, Westside Voices expands public involvement and public opinion research at cost far less than traditional techniques.
How are Westside Voices questions prepared? Topics for Westside Voices surveys are determined by the participating partners, often with input from collaborating organizations and feedback from members about what’s important to them. Questions are developed by DHM Research, an independent, non-partisan public opinion firm in Portland.
How is Westside Voices used? Westside Voices information is used much like input gathered from residents at public meetings, through focus groups or telephone surveys. It is not a substitute for these meetings, nor is it the only information the partners use in planning and policy-making. Westside Voices information serves as an additional “data point” for partners' staff to consider along with many other kinds of information.
What information is available and how is Westside Voices reported? Results to all Westside Voices questions are available on the Westside Voices website.
Is Westside Voices representative of the community? Not yet, but it’s getting closer every week. The Westside Voices partners are working diligently with the assistance of different community organizations to build a Westside Voices panel that is representative of the population in the region. You can help diversify and grow Westside Voices membership by inviting people you know.
Can’t members skew results? Each Westside Voices member has a unique ID and is given a unique URL for every survey. This allows them to participate in each Westside Voices effort only one time.
How do you know members are providing valid information? Like other forms of community engagement and opinion research, we need to count on people being honest. When you ask questions over the telephone or in-person, people can provide false answers too, but we find this is not the common trend for public opinion research.
What about people without Internet access or who have disability or language barriers? Westside Voices partners are working with community organizations to identify and address barriers. Residents without Internet or a computer can visit their local library for free Intenet access and computer use. Westside Voices partners have provided small grants to community groups to help low-income residents’ access to computers and have piloted a project providing written surveys, both in English and Spanish. We’re also exploring developing a mobile “app” for smart phones. We recognize that Westside Voices won’t be the best tool for everyone in the region and are committed to continuing to provide engagement opportunities through other methods.