Survey History and Methodology
The Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey (2001–2012)
The Johnson Center conducted its first community-wide survey, the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey, in 2001. The project consisted of a phone survey to the owners of 500 randomly selected landline telephone numbers in the city of Grand Rapids, and included oversampling of Hispanic/Latinx and Black/African American residents. This methodology was used until 2013.
Oversampling is the practice of selecting survey respondents so that smaller groups make up a larger share of the survey sample than they do in the general population. When groups are small, oversampling ensures that there are enough individual group members included in the survey to meaningfully represent the group in the overall population.
Upon assessing the geographic and demographic representativeness of the 2012 data, the Johnson Center’s Community Research Institute (CRI) concluded that landline telephones were no longer a good representation of the underlying population, requiring a change in survey methodology.
Representativeness refers to a survey’s reflection of the underlying population. Having a representative sample means that the individuals surveyed so closely reflect the larger population (e.g. all residents of Grand Rapids) that we are able to draw conclusions about the larger population based on the sample.
In 2013, the survey was renamed VoiceGR and was conducted using a combination of paper and online surveys. By partnering with local organizations for survey collection, natural networks of communication were utilized to encourage greater Grand Rapids residents to complete the survey. The first VoiceGR collected responses from more than 3,300 Grand Rapids-area residents.
The VoiceGR 2014 survey was collected between September 15 and December 1, 2014. CRI chose five neighborhoods in Grand Rapids and partnered with LINC Neighborhood Revitalization to collect surveys door-to-door in those neighborhoods. The 2014 target neighborhoods were Black Hills, Grandville, John Ball, West Grand, and Garfield Park. Additionally, surveys were collected at community events and also available to take online.
VoiceGR 2015 utilized a deliberate network-engagement strategy to reach more Grand Rapids residents. Paper surveys were collected at community events and at partner organizations’ locations. The survey was also available online and was distributed through a variety of nonprofit, community, and academic organizations’ email newsletters and social media. Survey responses were collected between June and November 2015.
The VoiceGR 2016 survey was conducted using the same methodology as VoiceGR 2015. Responses were collected between June 6 and December 12, 2016.
In 2017, a collaboration between the Johnson Center and Kent County Health Department expanded the survey to include residents throughout Kent County, and the survey was renamed VoiceKent. VoiceKent 2017 survey responses were collected between June 5 and September 29, 2017. The VoiceKent 2017 survey questionnaire was assembled by the Johnson Center and Kent County Health Department using questions from previous surveys and community health questionnaires, as well as input from various community partners.
The survey was distributed using the same methodology as VoiceGR 2015 and 2016.
As an incentive for participation, VoiceKent participants were entered into a drawing for one of three prizes, which were donated by Amway Grand Plaza, JW Marriott Grand Rapids, and the Grand Rapids Griffins. At in-person surveying events, there were also small incentives such as tote bags, pens, bus passes, and snacks.