By Sarah Enterline
While budgeting is a fraught process, for many districts a successful budget initiative can provide them with a critical lifeline. It may be tempting to engage your stakeholders immediately after such an important vote. But there are more proactive ways to gain your community’s trust, while increasing the likelihood they will support future endeavors.
Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t conduct an exit poll after a budget vote, as well as alternative ways you can engage your stakeholders.
You’re Not Reaching the Silent Majority
Many times, the voters who show up to the polls are the vocal minority. Unfortunately, these individuals may oppose your budget for a number of unrelated reasons such as dissatisfaction with district governance or leadership.
The silent majority comprises community members who feel their voices don’t matter, and these are the individuals you need to reach. However, you won’t find them at polling sites on voting day. Rather, you must engage them in the decision-making process prior to asking for their vote.
You’re Not Collecting Useful Data
Surveying people after they vote fails to build trust or engagement, and does nothing to inform your choices. In addition, exit polls introduce the potential for biased results as they usually verify existing assumptions. By regularly surveying your community, you will obtain valuable feedback you can use to galvanize public support for your initiatives.
You’re Putting the Cart Before the Horse
By going to your community members before Election Day, you can provide information about the budget process with which they may be unfamiliar — such as the constraints, requirements and mandates placed on local public educators by the federal and state government.
While exit polls have their place, they are mostly a convenient way to quickly obtain data. Ultimately, when it comes to something as important as a budget vote, frequently listening and responding to your community is the best way to inform, engage and lead your community.