Section 3: Who Reads What? surveys

Communicating with residents is an important council responsibility. To make sure we are fulfilling this responsibility, it is important that we understand not only how our residents consume information, but also how they would like to.


Delivering the right messages through the right channels is a vital part of building trust and engagement within our communities, and we need to make sure that we have the right data to support our communication decisions and activities. It also helps to make sure that we direct our resources into activities that will have the greatest impact on the communities we serve.

To help address this challenge we have developed Who Reads What? – a set of survey questions designed to help councils gauge their residents’ communications needs and interests.

Questions cover a range of topics from how satisfied residents are with council-wide information, what they think about their council’s website or magazine and opportunities to suggest how communications could be improved in the future. There are also questions focused on how engaged or digitally aware local residents are to help council communication teams to target their messages more effectively.

As with Are You Being Served?’, or our Who Reads What? the questions can be used in their entirety, or adapted to fit local need. We do not currently offer a benchmarking service for our Who Reads What? surveys.

When conducting a survey of this sort, it is advisable to include some demographic questions, to understand the needs of your different audiences.

The demographic breakdowns you choose to use will depend largely on the make-up of your local area and any priority groups you wish to have information about (for example, Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic residents, council tax payers, council tenants, older residents, parents). Here is an example of the standard demographic questions used by the Office for National Statistics.

Who Reads What? – example survey questions

Overall satisfactions levels with council-wide information

This question is taken from the LGA’s Are You Being Served? guidance for councils that are carrying out general population surveys and would like to include questions on resident satisfaction and benchmark these results against other councils. Councils wishing to conduct a resident satisfaction survey should review this guidance and further information

  1. Overall, how well informed do you think [name of council] keeps residents about the services and benefits it provides?
  • Very well informed
  • Fairly well informed
  • Not very well informed
  • Not well informed at all
  • Don’t know

Possible additional question asked only to those who answered ‘not very well informed/not well informed at all’

  1. Please explain why you think [name of council] doesn’t keep residents well informed about the services and benefits it provides.

Free text

How residents get information

  1. How do you currently find out about [name of council] and the services it provides?
  • Council website
  • [Council’s publication]
  • Printed information provided by the council (e.g. leaflets, flyers, public notices)
  • Council texts, emails and e-newsletters
  • Direct contact with the council (e.g. contact with staff, public meetings and events)
  • Council’s social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Social media outside the council (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Council noticeboards in council buildings
  • Advertising on billboards/buses etc.
  • From your local councillor
  • Local media (e.g. newspapers, TV, radio)
  • Word of mouth (e.g. friends, neighbours, relations)
  • Do not find out any information
  • Other (please specify)

Possible additional question for those who identified at least one information source. Ask scale for each information source selected above.

  1. How useful do you find each of the sources that you use to find information about [name of council] and the services it provides?
  • Very useful
  • Fairly useful
  • Not very useful
  • Not at all useful
  • Don’t know
  1. Have you ever wanted to make contact with the council and not been able to?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

IF YES [unable to make contact]

  1. And, for which of the following reasons, if any, were you unable to make contact with the council?
  • No access, or limited access, to the internet
  • Language barriers
  • Difficulty reading or writing
  • I have a physical disability or illness
  • The particular person I wanted to speak to was not available
  • Unable to find the correct department responsible for the service
  • Unable to travel to the council offices
  • The council’s website is difficult to use

Digital skills

  1. Do you use the internet, at least occasionally?
  • Yes
  • No

If yes [use the internet]

  1. How confident are you with using the internet to do the following? Very confident/Fairly confident/Not very confident/Not at all confident/Not applicable
  • Using a search engine to look for information online
  • Downloading/saving a photo you found online
  • Finding a website you have visited before
  • Sending a personal message to another person via email or online messaging service
  • Carefully making comments and sharing information online
  • Buying items or services from a website
  • Buying and installing apps on a device
  • Solving a problem you have with a device or digital service using online help
  • Verifying sources of information you found online
  • Completing online application forms which include personal details
  • Creating something new from existing online images, music or video

Views on council’s website

  1. Have you ever visited [name of council] website?
  • Yes
  • No

If yes [visited website]

  1. How satisfied or dissatisfied were you with the website, overall? 
  • Very satisfied
  • Fairly satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Fairly dissatisfied
  • Very dissatisfied
  1. And, for which of the following reasons did you visit [name of council’s] website?
  • To get information or advice (e.g. waste collection, school term dates, local events)
  • To make a payment (e.g. council tax, business rates, penalty charge notice)
  • To apply for a service (e.g. joining a library, requesting a parking permit)
  • To make a booking (e.g. bulky waste collection, registering a birth, hiring a sports pitch)
  • To comment on a consultation/planning application
  • To apply for a benefit (e.g. housing, council tax discount or exemption)
  • To find out about your councillor
  • To view committee agendas, minutes and reports
  • To report a problem
  • To make a compliment/comment/suggestion about the council
  • To make a complaint about the council
  • Other (please specify)

Possible additional question for those identifying at least one reasons for visiting council’s website:

  1. How well did this/these aspect/s of the council’s website meet your expectations?
  • Better than you expected
  • About the same as you expected
  • Worse than you expected
  • Didn’t know what to expect
  1. Which of the following ideas, if any, would make you more likely to use the internet for council services?
  • If it meant your concern or issue was processed more quickly
  • If there were Apps for completing transactions easily on-the-go
  • If it was clearer that online contact was cheaper for the council to run than offline contact
  • If the council website was better designed and easier to navigate

Views on council's magazine

  1. Have you heard of [insert name of council’s magazine], the council’s magazine delivered to homes by the council [X] times a year?
  • Yes, I have heard of it and always read it
  • Yes, I have heard of it and sometimes read it
  • Yes, I have heard of it but don’t read it
  • No, I haven’t heard of it

If any yes [have heard of council’s magazine]

  1. How well informed, would you say, [name of magazine] keeps you about [name of council’s] activities?
  • Very informed 
  • Fairly informed
  • Not very informed
  • Not at all informed
  • I don’t read it

Overall engagement

  1. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the level of engagement your council offers to local residents? By engagement we mean giving local people information about the council, asking them for their views and giving them a direct say in decision-making.
  • Very satisfied
  • Fairly satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • Fairly dissatisfied
  • Very dissatisfied
  • Don’t know

If neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, fairly dissatisfied or very dissatisfied then [with level of engagement]

  1. Which three things do you think your council could do better to engage with local residents?
  • Make it clearer how residents can get involved in decision-making
  • Be more visible in the community
  • Make more use of existing community networks
  • Further improve its customer service
  • Make more use of jargon-free and plain English
  • Demonstrate more clearly how it is acting on residents’ feedback
  • Increase residents’ access to local councillors
  • Explain more clearly its decisions when they affect you
  • Explain more clearly how it is using your money
  • Encourage more people to vote in local elections
  • Don’t know
  • Other (please specify)
  1. How likely would you be to use the following ways of engaging with your council in the future? Very likely/fairly likely/neither likely or unlikely/fairly unlikely/very unlikely/
  • Ordering a service/paying a bill/reporting a problem through the council’s website
  • Ordering a service/paying a bill/reporting a problem through an App on your smartphone or tablet
  • Signing up for text alerts on relevant services on your mobile phone
  • Signing up for email messages and alerts on services that are relevant to you
  • Contacting the council through social media
  • Getting information about the council from its website
  • Reading the council’s residents magazine in print or online
  • Attending a local public forum to ask questions about the council
  • Ways to improve
  1. I’d like to ask you some questions about the sort of information you might be interested in receiving from your council. How interested would you be in receiving information about: Very interested/Fairly interested/Not very interested/Not at all interested
  • Council events
  • Council tax and spending
  • Community consultations
  • Council services available for residents
  • Decisions from council meetings
  • How well the council is performing
  • Licensing and planning applications 
  • Sports and leisure activities
  • Voting and elections 
  • Waste and recycling
  1. Please select your top three choices for receiving information about [name of council] and the services it provides, in the future: 
  • Council website
  • [Council’s publication]
  • Printed information provided by the council (e.g. leaflets, flyers, public notices)
  • Council texts, emails and e-newsletters
  • Direct contact with the council (e.g. contact with staff, public meetings and events)
  • Council’s social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Social media outside the council (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
  • Council noticeboards in council buildings
  • Advertising on billboards/buses etc.
  • From your local councillor
  • Local media (e.g. newspapers, TV, radio)
  • Word of mouth (e.g. friends, neighbours, relations)
  • Do not want to find out any information
  • Other (please specify)

Further information

Additional questions about internet access and use are available via the British Population Survey.

Ipsos Connect runs a quarterly Tech Tracker to measure the emerging trends and developments in technology.