Yankton Residents Can Influence Policy Through Polls

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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Civic participation is integral to maintaining an effective democracy that truly represents the people. But according to a recent poll, only 12 percent of Americans reported having attended a meeting in their community in the previous year.

Finding easy ways for busy citizens to participate in matters that affect them is a priority for the City of Yankton and Yankton Area Progressive Growth (YAPG). That’s why we’ve partnered to test out an online platform to help gauge public opinion.

Polco is an independent website and mobile app that integrates with social media. The civic participation technology platform educates citizens about current initiatives and issues. It collects participant input in order to inform local policy.

“We’re looking for new ways to engage the community in some of the important conversations we’re having,” explains YAPG CEO Nancy Wenande. “It enables people who can’t make it to meetings on certain community projects to have a say and share their opinions.”

Wenande notes that proactively involving residents and determining their level of support before moving forward with projects can help ensure their success. The goal is to use the tool to make better decisions that represent the most people.

Subscribers answer poll questions and then have an opportunity to comment or read other’s comments — but they can’t respond to them. Taking the bantering out is a way to make sure comments remain constructive, according to Wenande.

The City and YAPG partnered to use the service. Each entity creates its own polls and they alternate the timing of when questions are released.

Recent YAPG polls have focused on topics such as quality of life, career development and housing in Yankton. Subscribers get a weekly email notifying them when new polls are added.

Polco collects demographic information but subscribers won’t be subjected to spam and their responses are anonymous. The system does verify respondents are residents to prevent those who aren’t local from weighting the results.

A large number of citizens have signed up, but continuing to increase subscribership is a priority. Subscribers are from a variety of age groups. Subscribers are evenly split between males and females.

The plan is to try Polco for a year and then assess how effective it was in determining public opinion. Wenande encourages people to sign up and share their opinions. She says it’s easy to register and use the system.

“We want to get more people signed up for it. The more people utilizing it the better for us from a statistical standpoint,” she says. “We’ll get a better feel for community opinion.”

Find out more about Polco and register here


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