Local Government Research Expertise

What is Local Government Research Expertise?

Conducting research for local governments presents several distinct challenges, with a key focus on ensuring that the collected views are representative of the entire community rather than being influenced solely by those with the strongest opinions or the loudest voices. Additionally, it is essential to address the challenges of capturing the perspectives of marginalised residents, maintaining objectivity in the research process, and minimising unintentional bias. Furthermore, local government research often operates within tight budget constraints.

Over the past five years, Taverner Research, along with its subsidiaries Jetty Research and IRIS Research, has successfully conducted research and community engagement projects for more than 60 local government councils in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland. These projects have covered a wide range of topics and utilised diverse methodologies. The majority of our work has fallen into the following categories:

Customer or Community Satisfaction

We have conducted customer or community satisfaction research for over 30 councils, including prominent ones such as Northern Beaches, North Sydney, Strathfield, Cumberland, Hornsby, as well as approximately 30 regional councils in NSW and Queensland.

Inform Community Strategic Plans

Our expertise extends to conducting research that provides valuable insights for the development of Community Strategic Plans. Notable examples include Hornsby, Lake Macquarie, Canterbury-Bankstown, the eight member councils of the Canberra Regional Organisation of Councils (ROC), and Shellharbour councils.

Waste, Recycling, & FOGO-related Research

 We have worked with over 30 councils on research projects related to waste management, recycling, and FOGO (Food Organics, Garden Organics). Our clients in this area include WSROC, Newcastle City Council, Randwick Council, Tweed Shire Council, Hunter Regional Organisation of Councils, and the six local government areas comprising the MidCoast Waste Forum.

Measure & Explore Environmental Awareness, Understanding, Attitudes, & Behaviors

Our expertise extends to measuring and exploring environmental awareness, understanding, attitudes, and behaviors. Clients in this domain include Waverley Council, Randwick City Council, and Lake Macquarie City Council.

Active Transport Research

We have conducted research on active transport for various councils, including the City of Sydney, Northern Beaches Council, and Bathurst Regional Council. This research focuses on promoting and understanding modes of transportation that encourage physical activity, such as walking and cycling.

At Taverner Research, we bring extensive experience and a deep understanding of the unique research needs of local government councils. Our proven track record and expertise enable us to deliver valuable insights and strategic guidance for effective decision-making and community engagement.

To discuss any of these projects, or your own specific needs, contact us below

Here are additional examples of projects we have successfully delivered:

  • Customer Satisfaction Survey for a Sydney Council: We conducted a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey for a council in Sydney. The survey involved a combination of random fixed-line and mobile telephone interviews with 600 residents, ensuring a representative sample.
  • Waste and Recycling Services Survey for a Major NSW Regional City: We conducted a thorough survey focusing on various aspects of waste and recycling services in a significant regional city in NSW. The project involved a random sample of 800 residents, with interviews conducted through both telephone and online platforms. The survey included scenarios presenting different pricing options for bin collection services to gather insights and preferences.
  • Asset Prioritisation Survey for a Hunter-Based Council: We assisted a council in the Hunter region with an asset prioritization survey. This project involved conducting a random survey of 500 residents through both fixed-line and mobile telephone interviews. The survey aimed to gather valuable insights to prioritize and allocate resources effectively.
  • Internal Customer Service Quality Survey for a Major Queensland Council: We conducted an in-depth survey to assess the quality of internal customer service for a prominent council in Queensland. The survey involved collecting feedback from over 1,000 employees through an online survey, providing valuable insights to improve internal processes and enhance overall customer service.
  • Community Wellbeing Survey for a Regional Queensland Council: We conducted a comprehensive survey focusing on community wellbeing for a regional council in Queensland. The project involved a combination of telephone and online surveys conducted with 1,000 residents. The survey aimed to understand the overall well-being of the community and identify areas for improvement and targeted interventions.

These examples showcase our ability to design and execute research projects using a variety of methodologies to meet the specific needs and objectives of our clients. We ensure robust data collection and analysis techniques to deliver valuable insights and actionable recommendations. To discuss any of these projects, or your own specific needs, contact us below.

Some of the clients we are proud to work with:

Local Government FAQs

How can I ensure my research is representative of community views?

The majority of our government research is still conducted by telephone. Telephone polling has traditionally been considered more representative of community views compared to online surveys for several reasons:

Sampling bias: Online surveys often suffer from self-selection bias, as respondents choose to participate voluntarily. This can lead to overrepresentation of certain groups who are more likely to respond, such as those with strong opinions or specific interests. Telephone polling uses random sampling techniques to select participants, reducing bias and providing a more accurate reflection of the community.

Data quality: Telephone polling allows for real-time interaction between the pollster and the respondent, ensuring that questions are understood correctly and clarifications can be made if needed.

Demographic representation: Telephone polling enables pollsters to control for demographic factors, such as age, gender, or region, during the sampling process. This helps ensure that the final sample is proportionally representative of the community’s population. In contrast, online surveys often rely on self-reported demographics, which may not be as accurate or representative.

It is worth noting that the landscape of survey research is evolving, and online surveys have gained popularity due to their convenience and cost-effectiveness. Efforts are being made to address the limitations of online surveys, such as improving sampling techniques and employing statistical weighting methods to adjust for demographic biases. However, telephone polling, when properly conducted, still remains a widely recognised method for achieving representative community views.

Is telephone research still effective when so many homes no longer have landlines?

Given declining use of landlines, these days 70+% of our calls are made to mobile phones. The company supplying our phone sample is a well-known and highly respected supplier of randomised land lines and mobile numbers to the market research industry.

They provide a national directory of more than 9 million mobile numbers and 5.7 million residential numbers, updated monthly and verified regularly for consistency. While some research providers utilise the Electronic White Pages (which is no longer being updated) or random digit dialling (which can have a low level of accuracy with regard to the exact location and mobile vs. land line nature of the number) our testing across many LGAs has found our supplier to offer reliable and representative numbers.
Most importantly, we can access geographically specific and age-specific mobile telephone numbers, to improve reach (in particular) among renters and younger residents.

Why is so much local government research still telephone-based?

While many different research sectors have moved to online research over the past decade, the majority of research seeking a random and representative sample of the community is still conducted by phone. This has been primarily driven by:

  1. The need for an “opt-out” methodology that reaches the quiet majority rather than just “the usual suspects”. Online and social media surveys (known as “self-selecting” or “opt-in” polling) are often dominated by those with strong or polarised views, rather than accurately reflecting a holistic community perspective. Phone research is still popular with many residents, who are happy to give 10-15 minutes of their time when asked to assist their local Council with feedback.
  2. The inability of online panel providers to provide sufficient sample sizes at the LGA level. While panels provide quick and cost-effective research outcomes at the metro/regional, state or national level, they can seldom provide more than 50-100 residents in any given LGA – which is insufficient for the needs of most Councils.
  3. Growing access to geographically specific and age specific mobile numbers. This has overcome the issue of declining landline use that once posed a threat to phone research. And it has meant that research conmpanies have excellent access to harder-to-reach groups such as younger residents and renters.

Telephone polling enables pollsters to control for demographic factors, such as age, gender, or region, during the sampling process. This helps ensure that the final sample is proportionally representative of the community’s population. In contrast, online surveys often rely on self-reported demographics, which may not be as accurate or representative.

How large a sample size do we need for our community surveys?

The optimal sample size is typically derived from a combination of five factors:

  1. Random sampling error required for the overall sample.
  2. Random sampling error required for any sub-samples (e.g., by age or gender).
  3. What looks credible or persuasive to external stakeholders.
  4. Cost and time in field.
  5. (in smaller LGAs) Available phone sample.

Taverner research conducts Council customer satisfaction surveys for over 40 NSW Councils. Our sample sizes range from:

  • 200-250 for small-population (<10,000 population) LGAs
  • 300-400 for medium sized LGAs (10-50,000 population)
  • 500-600 for larger Councils (>50,000).

It’s important to note that random sampling error varies very little once sample size moves beyond 400, regardless of population. Hence, while we often run larger sample sizes for the bigger Councils, this is generally driven more by factors 2 and 3 (above) than it is by the overall random sampling
The vast majority of NSW regional Councils hence use a sample size of n=400, as this provides a good balance between acceptable RSE, perceived rigour, and cost. Those with populations of less than 5,000 often use smaller sample due to constraints with availability of phone sample/records. And those with larger populations (50,000-plus) are generally driven more by perceptions of rigour than they are by actual RSE.

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Have any questions? We’d love to hear from you