New way to learn what Charlotte-Mecklenburg thinks: YourVoiceCLT

Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community have a new way to share their opinions on a variety of issues with the launch of YourVoiceCLT.

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, in partnership with researchers from the university’s Ph.D. in Public Policy Program and the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, has developed YourVoiceCLT, a Charlotte community survey panel.  

A community survey panel is a method to administer surveys in a representative way while overcoming obstacles that today’s surveys confront, since fewer people today answer their telephones. By creating a large pool of participants, YourVoiceCLT can use statistical methods to provide high-quality opinion data to help inform community decisions.

The initiative will let city and county residents share their thoughts about topics related to their quality of life and/or respond to issues in the news. YourVoiceCLT seeks volunteers to build a participant pool that represents the full range of households and opinions in Charlotte. Volunteers sign up to take surveys throughout the year to help local government as well as nonprofit and community-focused organizations identify public needs and evaluate the impact of policies and programs.

YourVoiceCLT is building partnerships with groups including Livable Meck, Charlotte Center City Partners, Centralina Council of Governments and Crisis Assistance Ministry.

“Access to high-quality information about public opinion is essential to a well-functioning city,” says YourVoiceCLT Academic Director Cherie Maestas, Rauch Professor of Political Science at UNC Charlotte and director of the Ph.D. in Public Policy Program. “Civic organizations and government officials can only respond to community needs when they have an accurate picture of how the community feels.”  

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, a nonpartisan applied research and community outreach center, has facilitated representative surveys for more than 30 years. Diane Gavarkavich, director of research services and executive director of YourVoiceCLT, says YourVoiceCLT marks the next generation in this service. She notes this survey panel will broaden access to public opinion data.

“We work with many civic and community organizations that seek to improve the quality of life in Charlotte,” Gavarkavich says. “Our goal is for this panel to empower them with knowledge they can act upon.”

YourVoiceCLT participants will have the chance to give their opinions regularly throughout the year about issues that matter to them. A secure survey website will let them access and take surveys when it’s convenient for them.

Participants earn points for signing up and recommending others. Points can be redeemed for bus passes or entries into drawings for other rewards such as tickets to local events, meals and iPad minis.

“We know from research and public sentiment that people want their opinions heard but cannot always make it to public venues or may not feel comfortable reaching out to representatives,” Gavarkavich says. “Launching a secure online platform will help lessen barriers to participation.”

People without internet access can participate by phone or in local public locations. Anyone 18 or older living in Mecklenburg County is encouraged to join. More information about the survey panel and how to sign up are online at YourVoiceCLT.org.

The YourVoiceCLT team anticipates releasing results from its first survey in late summer or early fall. For more information, email yourvoiceclt@uncc.edu, or visit YourVoiceCLT.org.