[Air-l] Survey Questions for Online Forum Participants

Steven Clift slc at publicus.net
Mon Sep 13 11:07:48 PDT 2004

If you have surveyed participants of online political/community forums,
E-Democracy.Org would really like to compare notes.  If you plan to
survey forum participants in the future, we encourage you to build upon
or adapt some the questions we share below.

Also, E-Democracy.Org would be interested in your thoughts about the
questions you think should be ask in future surveys: 

Steven Clift
Chair, E-Democracy.Org

--- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Mon, 13 Sep 2004 12:53:37 -0500
From:           	Steven Clift <clift at PUBLICUS.NET>
Organization:   	http://www.publicus.net
Subject:        	[DW] Article - E-Democracy.Org Participant
Survey Report and Key Questions to Other Surveys
To:             	DO-WIRE at LISTS.UMN.EDU

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Asking the right questions in e-democracy research is a difficult
challenge. Building knowledge that helps practitioners refine and
rethink their e-democracy-related efforts is vitally important and
extremely rare.

Jakob Jensen, who recently completed his PHD in Denmark, provided
E-Democracy.Org the opportunity to work with him as he crafted
questions to create useful knowledge about online civic/political
discussion forums.

An article titled, "Minnesota E-Democracy Forum Participant Survey
Report," provides an overview of Jakob's research results:


In short, active citizens show up online.  Many post and enjoy the
forums. Prompted by public forum postings, often private communication
from elected officials, journalists, government staff and other
citizens demonstrate an important aspect of civic/political life not
visible to the casual visitor ... and much much more.

View the questions and background notes from Steven Clift,
E-Democracy.Org Board Chair:


Look below for the questions we encourage you to use in comparative
surveys and studies.  One of our goals is to determine what
e-democracy investments (time, volunteers, programs, money, etc.)
bring about the most resource-effective democratic results.

If you are active with e-democracy research and are looking for an
organization that will give you deep inside access, drop us a note:

Steven Clift
Board Chair, http://E-Democracy.Org
Editor, http://DoWire.Org

The questions:

Survey - Minnesota E-Democracy – A unique kind of democratic debate

Your activity on Minnesota E-Democracy

Question 1:
Which E-Democracy hosted forums (e-mail discussion lists) do you
subscribe to:
(check all that apply)
Minneapolis Issues Forum
St. Paul Issues Forum
Winona Online Democracy
Minnesota Politics Discuss

Question 2:
In which of the forums do you spend the most time (i.e. follow most
closely)? Minneapolis Issues Forum St. Paul Issues Forum Winona Online
Democracy Minneasota Politics Discuss

Question 3:
For how long have you participated in one or more of the forums? (off
and on or continuously) Since 1994 Between 5 and 7 years Between 3 and
4 years Between 1 and 2 years Less than a year

Question 4:
How did you first become aware of Minnesota E-Democracy or any of its

Via links on the Internet
Through an e-mail from a friend or family member
Through an e-mail from a political or professional contact
Through media coverage
Through word of mouth (off-line)
At a public meeting or event
Through print flyers or similar materials
Other, ____

Question 5:
How often do you use any of the features provided online by Minnesota
E-Democracy? (read the discussion messages or use the E-Democracy web
site to find links or information)

Most days
Most weeks
Every month

Question 6:
Approximately how often do you post (send an e-mail to the list(s)) to
any of the forums?

Most days
Most weeks
Every month

Jump question 6a (if answer anything but “never”):
Have you ever received private responses (those not shared publicly
with other participants) to any of your postings from (check all that
apply) Another participant A government official An elected official A
journalist Someone offering information you sought Someone supporting
the opinion you expressed Someone differing with the opinion you
expressed Someone offering abusive comments (profanity, personalized
name calling, etc.)

Question 7:
What activities have you engaged in on the forum(s)?
(check all that apply)

Started new topics of discussion
Contributed my opinion to discussions
Requested information from the group
Contributed information and/or links
Forwarded messages from the forum(s) to others
Encouraged others to join the forum(s)
Engaged in private exchanges with other forum members
Read a post which caused me to e-mail, call, write or meet with an
elected official Read a post which caused me to attend a public
meeting, event or rally Read discussions without posting

Impressions and conceptions of the forum

Question 8:
Consider your experience with the forum(s) in which you participate.
How would you evaluate the following elements of the forum?

Please use a scale from 1 to 5 where 1 characterizes a very negative
impression and 5 characterizes a very positive impression (-)         
               (+) The overall quality of the postings  1 ---2 --- 3
--- 4 --- 5 The quality of my own postings  1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5 
__ Doesn’t Apply The amount of new information provided 1 ---2 --- 3
--- 4 --- 5 The reliability of the information provided 1 ---2 --- 3
--- 4 --- 5 The usefulness of the discussion  1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5
The level of respect between the debaters 1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5 The
general atmosphere in the forum  1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5

Please share further comments on your personal experiences - good, bad
or simply notable: ________________________________________________

Question 9:
Consider the following factors and their effects on making Minnesota
E-Democracy’discussions an ideal forum for online dialogue,
participation and civic involvement.

Please use a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 means a very negative effect
and 5 means a very positive effect.

(-)                         (+)
The rules and guidelines       1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5
The forum managers (list manager/”moderator”)
1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5
The geographical boundaries on topics discussed
1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5
The present technical form of the discussion (i.e. an e-mail list not
a web board) 1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5 The information provided on the
website of Minnesota E-Democracy 1 ---2 --- 3 --- 4 --- 5

Question 10:
Try to compare Minnesota E-Democracy forums with other forms of
political participation. To which forms
do you find it most similar?
(one to three answers, please)

Writing letters to the editor for a newspaper or journal
Participating in a meeting with other citizens
Contacting politicians by letter
Contacting politicians in person
Discussing politics with friends, colleagues or family
Attending a political party meeting
Organizing grassroots activities
Other forms, which_________________
Do not know

Question 11
Considering the overall content in the forum(s) compared to view
points expressed in other media (TV,
radio, newspapers etc.) Is it:
More balanced
Less balanced

Question 12:
To what extent do you think the discussions affect the following

Please use a scale from 1 to 5 where 1 means they have no impact, 3
means they have some impact and 5 means they have a large impact. No
impact-some impact-large impact Influencing politicial decision-makers
      1—2—3—4—5 Setting the community agenda?       1—2—3—4—5
Influencing opically related media coverage of community or political
issues? 1—2—3—4—5 Affecting public life or your community relations
with others? 1—2—3—4—5

Question 13:
Over time, have the discussions changed or influenced your political
opinions or your vote? (check all that apply)

It has changed how I normally vote
It has influenced my vote in specific elections
It has changed one or more of my political opinions
It has had some impact on my political opinions
It has had no impact at all
Don’t know

Question 14:
Consider your experience with the activities of Minnesota E-
Democracy. Which of the following purposes
do you think it serves best?
(one to three answers please)

Discussion among citizens
Discussion among citizens and politicians
Affecting media coverage
Putting issues on the political agenda
Giving a voice to alternative perspectives
Giving a voice to diverse or less represented groups in society
Contacting politicians
Searching for information about politics or community issues
Networking with other politically active people
Organizing grassroot activities
Linking communities and neighborhoods together
Do not know

Question 15:

Have you experienced cases where Minnesota E-Democracy forum
discussions have had an effect on
political decisions, the agenda in traditional media or ”in-person”
discussions in the community. If so, please describe:

Question 16:
What do you value most about the discussion in the forum(s)?  What do
you value most about the role of Minnesota E-Democracy and their
volunteer forum managers?

Question 17:
What should Minnesota E-Democracy do to improve the use of the
Internet as a tool for citizen participation,
political/community involvement or dialogue among the citizens and
elected officials?  Do you have specific suggestions for E-Democracy’s
web site and e-mail forums, or related online services you’d like to
see in Minnesota related to democracy?

Political interest and participation in general

Question 18:
Do you consider yourself interested in politics and/or community

Yes, very much
Yes, to some extent
Only a little
Not really
Not at all

Question 19:
Have you participated in other discussions online?
(check all that apply)

Yes, on a political party website/e-mail list
Yes, on a politicians website/e-mail list
Yes, on a political or community organization’s website/e-mail list
Yes, on a government website/e-mail list Yes, on an individual’s
website/e-mail list Yes, on a mass media website/e-mail list Yes, on a
commercial website/e-mail list Yes, through “usenet” newsgroups Yes,
through real-time chat or group instant messaging

No, I have not

Question 20:
Have you actively participated in politics the last 12 months?
(check all that apply)

Member of /donor to a political party
Attended a political party’s precinct caucus
Candidate for elective office
Member of any kind of government or local councils
Member of a grassroot organisation
Attended town meetings, public hearings, citizen activist meetings,
etc. Written a letter to the editor Contacted a politician on one or
more issues Discussed politics with family, friends or colleagues I
voted in the most recent election None

Question 21:
Which effect has your participation in Minnesota E-Democracy had on
the following factors?:

Please use a scale from –2 to +2, where –2 means a decrease, 0 means
no effect and +2 means an increase. Decrease ------ No effect ------
Increase My interest in political or community issues -2 --- -1 --- 0
--- +1 --- +2 My knowledge of political or community issues -2 --- -1
--- 0 --- +1 --- +2 My overall civic involvement -2 --- -1 --- 0 ---
+1 --- +2 My knowledge of the rationale behind other people’s opinions
-2 --- -1 --- 0 --- +1 --- +2 My level respect for those with
differing opinions from my own -2 --- -1 --- 0 --- +1 --- +2 My sense
of connection to elected officials -2 --- -1 --- 0 --- +1 --- +2

Use of Internet and other media

Question 22:

How often do you use the following Internet features?

Several times a day - Every day - Weekly - Monthly - Less than that -
Never E-mail?  X ------------------- X ----------X --------- X
 X --------- X
Websites?  X ------------------- X ----------X --------- X -----------
-- X --------- X Instant messaging? X ------------------- X
----------X --------- X --- ---------- X --------- X

Question 23:

Where do you access the Internet on a regular basis?
(check all that apply)
At home
At work
At school/university
At libraries, cafes, or other public places
At the homes of friends or family
Other places

Question 24:

Which non-Internet forms of media do you use at least once a week?
(check all that apply)

I use only the Internet


Question 25:
Basic demographics
What is your gender? Male__ Female___
What is your age? ____years
What is your ZIP code _____

Question 26:
Which education do you have (please mark the highest level attained)?

_None, or grades 1-8
_Some High school (grades 9-11)
_High school graduate (grade 12 or GED certificate)
_Business, Technical, or vocational school AFTER high school
_Some college, no 4-year degree
_College graduate (B.S., B.A., or other 4-year degree)
_Post-graduate training/professional school after college (Master'
degree/Ph.D., Law or Medical school) _Don't know/Refused

Question 27:
How would you best describe yourself?
”Average” citizen
Activist citizen
Elected official
City employee
County/regional govt employee
State government employee
Don't know/Refused

At Minnesota E-Democracy’s request I have included the following two
optional questions for their use in comparing the demographics of
participants with recent census data.  The aggregate information will
help them establish a baseline for future outreach.

Question 28:
Please check all boxes that describe your racial/ethnic background
(adapted from U.S. Census categories):

Black or African American
American Indian or Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic or latino

Don’t Know/Refused

Question 29:
Total Household Income Per Year (from US Census categories)

Less than $10,000
$10,000 - $14,999
$15,000 - $24,999
$25,000 - $34,999
$35,000 - $49,000
$50,000 - $74,999
$75,000 - $99,999
$100,000 - $149,000
$150,000 - $199,999
$200,000 or more

Thank you for the participation. You will of course remain anonymous
and your answers will be treated and analyzed with the utmost

^               ^               ^                ^
Steven L. Clift    -   -  -  W: http://publicus.net
Minneapolis    -   -   -  -   E: clift at publicus.net
Minnesota  -   -   -   -   -   - T: +1.612.822.8667
USA    -   -   -   -   -       MSN/Y!/AIM: netclift

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