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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.
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Researcher's Views on City Service Surveys
Harri Myllyniemi 22.9.2004
The first City Service Survey was launched by the Association of Finnish Cities in 1983. The second round was fielded in 1985. After that surveys have been conducted every four years, in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001. The next one is due in 2005. Starting from 1993 the surveys have been conducted by Efektia, and Research Manager Heikki Miettinen has been involved with them ever since.
The aim of the city service surveys is to study citizens' opinions on municipal services and administration.
Heikki Miettinen explains the reasons for launching the survey series:
- The purpose was to investigate satisfaction with the services offered by Finnish cities and towns, and satisfaction with housing in general. It was felt that public services should not only satisfy basic needs, individual requirements should also be taken into account. Usually only the most active citizens give feedback. By conducting surveys, we are able to have a more comprehensive picture of citizens' opinions and thoughts on these matters.
- Questionnaires are always designed in co-operation with municipalities. To provide time series data is one of the main goals. Therefore as many questions as possible remain unchanged though there are always many new ideas for development.
For popular and frequently used services like, for example, health care and library services, the results of the surveys provide reliable information on customer satisfaction, as the responses are based on respondents' own experiences. In the case of some other services, results tend to reflect the image people have rather than their own experiences.
- However, images are also very important, because they influence people's choice of residence, among other things, Miettinen points out.
Setting goals for satisfaction levels
Even for the forthcoming 2005 survey, assessing the quality of principal municipal services remains one of the main objectives.
- This aspect of the surveys is considered more and more significant. Municipalities have even set themselves goals regarding the level of citizen satisfaction they would like to achieve. Municipalities also compare the results between themselves. The importance of this benchmarking is increasing and therefore the number of bigger towns participating is growing. Comparison has produced some rather unexpected findings.
Over the years, more than 70 municipalities and towns have participated. In each round, participating municipalities have volunteered to be included, and their number has varied from 16 to 33. Espoo, Helsinki, Kemi, Kuusankoski and Tampere have participated every time.
Comprehensive picture of citizens' views on local government services
The study design has remained roughly the same which allows comparison over time. Individual questions may change to some extent from year to year. The major topic areas, however, have always been work, housing and living environment, child care, schools, health care services, services for the elderly, culture, sports and recreation, attitudes towards municipal administration, municipal development, and general conditions in the municipality. Beginning from 1993, information has been collected on respondents' personal problems and help received for them. From 1997 onwards, surveys have also carried questions on public safety.
On the whole, City Service Surveys contain extensive and varied data allowing comparative analysis of many aspects pertaining to citizen views on their municipality of residence and its services. The data are archived at the FSD and are available for secondary analysis.