The Case for the Inexperienced User: Rethinking Filter Questions in Citizen Satisfaction Surveys

Janet M. Kelly, David Swindell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

26 Scopus citations


Most citizen satisfaction surveys use filter questions to limit satisfaction responses to only those citizens with direct, personal experience with the service. The resulting small response set is inherently problematic, but no more so than the loss of valuable data on the expectations of service satisfaction from citizens who do not use the service. Borrowing a theoretical framework from the consumer satisfaction literature, this article identifies differences in the mean service satisfaction between inexperienced and experienced users of four common local government services (police, fire, emergency medical, and parks). The authors conclude that both experienced and inexperienced users have important information about service quality for local policy makers, especially when the satisfaction results can be disaggregated by neighborhood. Recommendations for modifying common citizen survey practice follow from the findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-108
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Review of Public Administration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003



  • Citizen survey
  • Service quality
  • Service user attitudes
  • Survey filter questions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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