Survey Research Overview

ICMA conducts surveys on local government practices and policies independently and with partners.

ICMA has conducted surveys on topics significant to local governments for decades. The resulting data provide valuable information for local decision makers and advance the state of the practice in local government. The results are sought by the media and mined my academicians. Our surveys:

  • Cover topics of importance to local governments
  • Identify trends in programs and practices
  • Typically have a response rate of 20% or higher, with thousands of responses
  • Are developed with input from content experts and practitioners
  • Are reviewed for internal consistency and logic
  • Are pretested among local government officials.

Our Database

ICMA’s database of local governments includes approximately 11,000 U.S. municipalities and 2,900 U.S. counties with populations of 2,500 or greater, as well as majority of municipalities and counties with populations under 2,500. The database includes population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and identification codes that enable our survey results to be combined with available federal data for more robust analysis. We survey local governments regardless of whether their chief administrative officer is an ICMA member.

ICMA typically surveys several thousand local governments. Alternatively, depending on the research objectives, the survey population may consist of a carefully drawn sample.

Survey Topics

ICMA surveys assess the state of local government practices, programs, partnerships, and policies. Each year, our surveys cover a balance of recurring and emergent topics of interest to local governments. Recent survey topics include:

  • Alternative Service Delivery
  • Residential Land Use
  • Innovation
  • Cybersecurity
  • Smart Cities

Longitudinal Data

On some topics, ICMA has conducted periodic surveys over time and maintains longitudinal data:

  • Alternative Service Delivery
  • Economic Development
  • Sustainability Practices
  • Local Governance Structures and Practices (form of government)

Survey Results

Data collected through surveys are summarized, analyzed, and published in research reports and articles. ICMA makes the aggregate survey results available online and offers datasets for sale.

Survey Collaborations

In addition to our independent research, ICMA regularly collaborates with and administers surveys in partnership with academic institutions, federal agencies, and foundations. Examples include:

  • Cybersecurity 2016 Survey (with the University of Maryland Baltimore County)
  • 2016 Smart Cities Survey (with the Smart Cities Council)
  • Alternative Service Delivery Survey (with Cornell University and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; 2017 summary report in development)
  • Residential Land-Use Regulation Survey (with the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business; forthcoming)
  • Government Technology Solutions (with OnBase by Hyland; forthcoming).

Explore additional examples of collaborative research projects and products here. ICMA welcomes expressions of interest from potential partners. Contact surveyresearch@icma.org.

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