Every other year, the city of Santa Clarita conducts a public opinion poll to determine potential areas of improvement and learn how residents feel about the city’s overall performance. While the goal may sound broad, the final product calls for an in-depth process. Since 2012, the city has shared online its public opinion poll results, which have revealed what the public believes is the most important community issue, with public safety and traffic remaining at the top of the charts over the years. Among other findings, results also reveal what areas the public believes the city is either on the right or wrong track. “We use the public opinion polls to guide our decision-making process to make sure we’re all on track,” said Jerrid McKenna, assistant to the city manager. Before dissecting information and presenting it to the public, the city first hires a consultant, city Communications Manager Carrie Lujan said. For the 2018 poll, the city hired True North Research. Timothy McLarney, president of the Encinitas-based corporation, said one the most important parts about starting the process is selecting interviewees. “When you think of surveys, there’s the issue of selecting those we interview,” he said. “We start with a list of households and then choose from a random sample so that everyone has an equal probability of being selected.” Today’s recruitment process, he added, involves telephone, mail and email invitations, where residents then have the option of taking the survey via phone or online. Participants can expect to take an estimated 15 to 20 minutes answering the series of questions. The 2018 poll is in the drafting stages, McLarney said. While the questionnaire has not yet been designed, participants may see some returning questions, including those about top community issues. Some repetition is required to “track answers and compare results to those of previous years.” After the survey data is collected, the consultant has two weeks to analyze the information and present it to the city in a complete report. According to the consultant, the City Council can expect to review the report by November. While this step falls near the November election, McKenna said there is no connection between presenting poll results and the election.