WEST BEND — On Monday, a Polco/National Research Center, Inc., gave the West Bend Common Council the first look at the results of a community survey that closed in January.

Survey results found West Bend citizens enjoy a high quality of life, view economic health as a priority, positively rate mobility but not street repair and appreciate local government.

At the end of 2020, the city sent survey invitations to a random sampling of 2,700 households. Of those households, 631 households, or 24 percent, responded. The response rate is considered good as most communities receive a 20 to 25 percent response rate.

The survey was later opened to any city resident online and garnered an additional 87 responses.

Data was statistically weighted by community demographics to correct discrepancies. Typically, citizens who are older, wealthier and homeowners tend to respond to surveys more often. The weighted results give heavier weight to citizens who do not respond as often, such as those who are younger, non-white, rent or live in attached housing and have a lower income.

“All of those demographic groups tend to under-respond to surveys, so that is why the process of statistical weighting is necessary to correct for that,” said Jade Arocha, senior program analyst for Polco and NRC.

In addition, online surveys tend to garner more results from those actively engaged in communities than those in the random sampling.

Survey data was compared to national data and custom benchmarks comparisons. Benchmark communities are those similar in size to West Bend with a population between 20,000 and 50,000 citizens.

Compared to benchmark communities, West Bend received higher ratings for vibrancy of downtown/ commercial area, water resources, availability of paths and walking trails, community support for the arts and residents voting in most recent local elections.

Areas that West Bend ranked lower included overall quality of the transportation system, valuing/respecting residents from diverse backgrounds, openness and acceptance of the community towards people of diverse backgrounds, street repair, bus or transit services, overall design or layout of West Bend’s residential and commercial areas and future economic outlook.

The survey also made several key finding about the community, one of which was that residents enjoy a high quality of life and gave strong marks to the community. Of the respondents, 87 percent rated quality of life in the city as excellent or good.

Another key finding was that the city’s economic health was a priority to residents. Sixty-two percent of respondents rated the city’s economic health as good or excellent, and 91 percent said it was important to focus on the economy in the next two years.

Arocha stated they believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is “likely to be having an impact on residents’ economic outlook,” but have not yet collected enough data to definitively say so.

Just 19 percent of residents surveyed believe in a positive impact in their income in the next six months.

West Bend also received positive responses for mobility, but street repair is an area of concern with 19 percent of respondents positively rating street repair. The result is more than 20 points lower than the national and benchmark comparisons.

The final key finding is that residents appreciate local government, and rated the city’s COVID-19 response as more favorably than the state and federal responses.

Forty-six percent of residents positively rated the local government’s response to COVID-19, whereas the federal government received 34 percent positive responses and the state government received 30 percent positive responses.

When it came to rating comfort levels of various activities, 91 percent stated they were comfortable going to parks or trails and 87 percent were comfortable using takeout/delivery services from restaurants. Fifty percent stated they were comfortable eating at a restaurant indoors.

“We like to say that surveys tell you what residents think but not why they think it,” said Arocha. She stated there are some other outreach methods that could be used to look qualitative data in the future.

The survey was partially funded through the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Routes to Recovery” Local Government Aid Grants program.

The results account for a 4-percent margin of error.