Surveys can uncover perceptions of large populations in a short amount of time while ensuring anonymity. Surveys can result in large amounts of quantifiable data that are generalizable to the public, and can allow for examination of responses given by people with specific characteristics such as age, gender and region. Surveys can be conducted online, via telephone, or in-person.
Low response rates are more common in online and telephone survey research, but can be circumvented with a larger sample pools to attain the desired results confidence level.
Strengths: Group discussions or interactions among people bring out qualitative insights that are not generally ascertained through individual interviews or survey methods. A focus group setting allows for presentation of more detailed background information and probing into the reasoning behind participants’ stated opinions. Unlike survey respondents, focus group participants can respond to each other’s ideas.
Limitations: Focus group results cannot be generalized to the public because of the smaller sample size.
Strengths: Unlike a survey, in-depth interviews allow a researcher to gain rich, in-depth insight into individuals’ perceptions and allow a researcher to uncover the “why’s or how’s.” They can also be utilized to follow-up on prior survey findings. In-depth interviews are useful when understanding the ideas of a smaller number of identifiable people is crucial to a project’s success.
Limitations: In-depth interview results cannot be generalized to the public because of the smaller sample size.
Deliberative Community Engagement
Strengths: Deliberative community engagement brings people together to learn about a difficult issue, share perspectives, understand the perspectives of others, and work collaboratively to find common ground. Unlike surveys, where you may get “off-the-top-of-the-head” responses, deliberative community engagement allows you to understand people’s opinions after they have high quality background information about an issue and are allowed to discuss trade offs with people whose ideas and experiences differ from their own. Deliberative community engagement is a good way to better understand the public’s priorities and values related to an issue.
Limitations: Deliberative community engagement results cannot be generalizable to the public because of the smaller sample size.