Welcome to Al's Corner - "Pouring Gasoline on the Dumpster Fire of Davis Politics" - Volume #8
Where have all the babies gone?

City of Davis survey results

How are you feeling about your city?

By Roberta Millstein

Recently, the City released the results of a periodic survey it does to take the pulse of Davis's residents.  The results are online here.

The survey was conducted April 12 – 19, 2022 using a a multi-modal methodology: telephone, text- and email-to-web.  There were 500 interviews with an estimated margin of error ±4.37 percentage points.

The staff report highlights some "key takeaways":

  • more than two-thirds of residents are optimistic about the direction of the City
  • more than 75% are satisfied with City services
  • affordable housing, homelessness and public safety are the top three areas of concern for residents
  • social media platforms and communications from the City are gaining popularity as a source of local news

Those are indeed interesting takeaways, although as always with the term "affordable housing," one wonders if people intend the legal meaning, or if they are unhappy with the affordability of housing more generally, or both.

Below are two panels of the survey that I found interesting.  In the first panel, only 23% of citizens are dissatisfied with city services but 39% are dissatisfied with the City Council.  So it seems that the dissatisfaction with the City Council is over and above the dissatisfaction with the provision of city services.  As for the second panel, as a longtime subscriber to the Davis Enterprise I am glad to see that it remains our top source for news.  I hope that people support it with subscriptions because there really is no other comparable source in Davis.

I'm curious to hear people's thoughts and reflections about the survey, so please leave comments if you'd like to weigh in!






Jan Bower

I did note on the city budget that was recently sent out with one of our utility bills that there is money allocated for streets and bike paths, but no funds for sidewalks. Since I walk a lot, and the sidewalks are a cracked and bumpy mess all over the City, I am concerned about falls, especially for the elderly who walk without walkers.


As with all such surveys, this one is over-simplified and worded poorly. So the honest answer I give can easily be interpreted to convey the opposite of what I intend.

Let's take Downtown Parking as an example.

If I say that I'm dissatisfied with parking, how will that be tabulated, and what corrective action would it encourage to make me more satisfied?

Will it be tabulated as me thinking there is too little car parking and that we need more? Or will it b e tabulated as Davis having too much car parking, and not charging appropriately for the resource?

The selection I make on that survey really says nothing about my feelings on parking except that I don't like how it is. I have no idea what relevant information will be gleaned from this, though I can make an educated guess that the interpretation will have a lot of bias.


I do notice:

"Most important source for local news"

Davis Vanguard.....1%


Bill (William) Marshall

Honest questions: when you (and or respondents to the survey) says "affordable housing", is that "ownership housing" or does it include, perhaps focus on (?) housing, including rentals?

SF and/or MF? Subsidized by other 'davisites', or 'market? 'Charity' from owners/builders/developers/landlords?

These questions seem to be lacking from most discussions...

Honest questions, meant to frame the discussion... seems to be "all over the place"...

Helen Roland Cramer

Thank you for this information and also for your shoutout regarding the Enterprise. A hometown newspaper is important

Ron O

I'm surprised (and glad) to see Bill Marshall commenting on here.

Not that I support much of what he normally says (or the way he sometimes says it on the Vanguard), but it's good to include a variety of views on here.

In any case, his comment/questions above are reasonable.


"I'm surprised (and glad) to see Bill Marshall commenting on here.

Not that I support much of what he normally says (or the way he sometimes says it on the Vanguard), but it's good to include a variety of views on here."

Ha Ron, the Vanguard comment section has become so boring I'm sure we'll see defections coming this way. Welcome Bill, this is a venue where all views are welcome.

Roberta L. Millstein

Jan: That's very disturbing that there is no money allocated in the budget for sidewalks. I agree with you that many of them are hazardous.

Darell: Excellent and concerning point. If positions 180 degrees opposed from each other can be inferred, there's not much use to the survey.

Keith: I noticed that only 1% of respondents found the Vanguard to be their most important source of news and events. Elsewhere in the survey it shows that that number has decreased from 2%.

Bill: Good questions. As with Darell's, they show that one really can't infer too much from these survey results.

Helen: My pleasure. Glad you found it helpful.


I see the Vanguard posted an article today about the results of the city survey. Funny, but no mention of the survey results for "Most important source for local news" and the Vanguard's result of only 1%.

Robert Canning

Warning - long comment ahead!

One should take the results of the survey with a grain of salt. The survey summary prepared by the City (and the consultants) does not say what the universe of possible Davis residents was. What list did they use to pick these 500 people from? How many attempts did they make to get their 500 respondents? This may be asking too much of a slide deck for the City Council, but it's important information to evaluate the survey and its results. Also, I could not find the document that Roberta linked to on the City website (I'm looking on July 11) or a link to the detailed report to the city. Do I need to put in a PRA request to get it? I think the city should should have it right up front. (If I missed these links, please let me know.)

On page 3 (Methodology) there is a table showing that the last few surveys were of "Davis voters." This survey does not specify who the respondents were but does say it is a survey of "residents." We can assume that most (84%) were voters since the Party Registration breakdown on page 6 notes only 16% non-voters. So right off the bat, we should assume that this survey is really about Davis VOTERS - not the whole population. According to the Yolo elections website 2/3 of Davis voting age residents are registered to vote. So what about the other 1/3/ of Davis residents? My hunch is that many of them are 1) minorities (who register at lower rates than whites); 2) low income; or 3) are long-term non-voters.

The survey also indicates that 51% of respondents were older than 45 years of age. According to the American Community Survey (ACS) the median age of residents in Davis is 26 suggesting the survey is skewed toward older residents. (I don't know what the median age is for voting-age adults - I could not find it. But the proportion of under-18s in Davis is small so my guess is that the median is probably still at or around 30).

Also, the ethnic breakdown chart is weird. It only adds up to 92% (63% White, 29% non-White). The ACS found 63% White vs. 37% non-White.

For instance, the questions about attitudes about policing (is crime up, are you happy with your interactions with DPD, is there profiling, etc.) might be skewed in favorable ways for some questions and in the opposite way for others if the sample was more representative. For instance, if the proportion of non-voters were more representative, the concern about profiling might be even higher (non-voters tend to be more alienated groups and thus have more negative attitudes toward authorities.)

So, yeah, this is nitpicking, but I think it's important when looking at this kind of survey data to know who was surveyed and whether there are selection biases and what that. means for policy going forward.

Roberta L. Millstein

Robert, thanks for your comments. I don't think any of them are nitpicking -- all points well taken and support your initial remark that we should take the survey with a grain of salt. It show *something* but some questions in particular really can't be relied on.

As for where to find the survey on the site, you have to go to the Council agendas:


and then click on the meeting where the presentation was given, i.e., July 5, and then scroll down and click on "05 Resident Satisfaction Survey Presentation".

I agree with you that this should be more readily accessible on the site. I was also bothered by the fact that the presentation wasn't available at all before the meeting, only after the meeting.

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