COVID-19 communications: Research tools

Research can help local authorities to prioritise where to commit resources. With budgets already limited, and expected to be put under further strain, resource allocation is the central challenge in local politics.


Research projects fall broadly into two categories, quantitative and qualitative. In quantitative research we engage with large numbers of respondents to collect robust and representative numerical data to answer a specific research objective. Qualitative research is exploratory, drawn from a smaller sample size, but yielding data that is more descriptive and detailed.  The two methods can be used independently or in tandem to best meet the needs of local authorities' particular objectives.

There are three key benefits to using opinion research and insights to help make better decisions:

  1. It provides local authorities with a flexible, agile way to understand opinions among their residents and businesses, a vital part of the role of a council. Councils can use a range of up-to-date, industry leading tools to engage with individuals including quick polls, deep dive questionnaires, in-depth interviews, focus groups and online community forums. Lead by an expert research consultant, councils can be confident in gaining a valid and comprehensive understanding of opinions, allowing the voices of constituents to take centre stage.
  1. Research can help local authorities to prioritise where to commit resources. With budgets already limited, and expected to be put under further strain, resource allocation is the central challenge in local politics. Opinion research can help to identify where precious finances, personnel and infrastructure need to be prioritised so that decision makers can feel reassured that it will not go to waste. With people from all sides asking for money it is tough to know where it is most needed or where will bring the most value. Tapping into public or industry opinion makes this choice easier.
  1. Finally, research and insights ensure evidence-based decision making. Council members and staff have the expertise and experience to make these difficult decisions, and the insights gathered from high-quality research are invaluable in informing decisions with evidence from a fully representative sample of your community.

Below are just some of the tools local authorities can use to help understand stakeholders and make evidence-based decisions that prioritise resources most effectively:

  • Representative online, telephone and face-to-face surveys to provide an accurate and reliable picture of residents’ attitudes, giving you access to the silent majority who may not be captured in traditional public consultation. When government guidance allows, face-to-face research can be conducted using PPE and social distancing measures to ensure a safe approach, or online and telephone surveys provide a lockdown-compliant method of engagement.
  • Focus groups that can be convened online, allowing discussion of issues in detail with residents, and generate solutions based on their needs. This discursive environment is ideal for deliberative and co-creative research.
  • Online communities, run over several days, allow you to explore perceptions of complex issues with local residents. Beginning by establishing a baseline of understanding, each day consists of tasks and discussion that builds on the one before, allowing us to reach an informed consensus by the project’s end.
  • In-depth interviews, conducted over the telephone or video call, to engage one-on-one with residents or key local stakeholders, such as businesses. Interviews allow you to understand attitudes and experiences at an individual level, building a rich picture to inform decision-making.
  • Statistical analytic tools including segmentation, drivers analysis and choice-based modelling which can help you to understand the motivations and behaviours shared by different subsets of an audience.

Since March, Savanta ComRes has been conducting a regular tracking survey of the UK public, to understand their behaviours and attitudes in response to COVID-19, and how they have been affected. Here are three key takeaways for local authorities.

After a peak in early April, levels of concern about COVID-19 are rising again, mirroring recent increases in cases and tighter lockdown measures. Councils will need to be ready to reassure residents, and provide care and support for those who require it most.

To expand this graph please click on the two dots to the right

Worry about COVID-19 over time: Description of graph

This graph shows the change in public worry about COVID-19 over time. On March 22 2020 45 per cent of people were very worried, rising to a high of 55 per cent on 5 April. As of 11 October 2020, 45 percent of people report being very worried about COVID-19.

 


To expand this graph please click on the two dots to the right

Net personal impact over time: Description of graph

This graph shows the net personal impact of COVID-19 on physical health, job security and mental health. It shows that by 11 October 2020, 6 per cent of people said their physical health had gotten worse since the outbreak of COVID-19. By this same date, 19 per cent of people reported their mental health had worsened and 28 per cent reported their job security had decreased.


To expand this graph please click on the two dots to the right

Disposable income impact over time: Description of graph

This graph shows the impact the impact COVID-19 has had on disposable income (the amount of money left from income after taking away money spent on ongoing bills). By October 11 2020, 41 per cent of people said that their disposable income had decreased, compared to 32 percent in March. 42 per cent of people reported that their income has not been affected, compared to 49 per cent in March.


Visit Savanta: Coronavirus data tracker for more data.