Best Practices: Candidate Questionnaires


We're so excited to partner with you on candidate questionnaires! This article includes tips for writing successful candidate questions as well as a questionnaire checklist to follow when submitting these questions to BallotReady. 

Writing Successful Candidate Questions

Here are some recommendations for a successful questionnaire:

  1. Keep questions short.
    • Candidates receive multiple questionnaires a day, so keep questions concise. Consider the amount of time it will take to complete the questionnaire. 
  2. Make sure each question has a clear purpose, so candidates can provide the information you're hoping to learn.
    • Each question should be clearly designed to address something relevant to voters in your community.
    • Questions should be phrased in a specific enough way so candidates know what you're hoping to learn from their answers.
    • Make sure each question is asking for unique information. Avoid asking multiple questions which serve the same purpose.
  3. Develop questions based on community feedback
    • We’ve found that customers who develop questions based on feedback from the groups they’re trying to reach not only create questions that reflect their priorities, but also see more enthusiasm for their site.
  4. Present your questionnaire to candidates as a valuable opportunity to speak directly to their constituents. 
    • Candidates are more likely to respond when they understand where this information will be displayed. If you are a news outlet, will their responses be included in potential reporting? Consider sharing how you are distributing the BallotReady site to readers or viewers.

Questionnaire Checklist

Below is a checklist to use prior to sharing your question submission template with the BallotReady team: 

  • Use spell check (in Google Sheets, click Tools, Spelling → Spell Check)
  • Review place names - please note that spell check may not pick up on proper nouns such as place names. Double check that the place names in your community are spelled correctly!
  • Do your best to de-duplicate questions and check for redundancies. Standardize similar questions across your entire questionnaire.

For example, the following 2 questions: "What actions should be taken to address concerns about decaying infrastructure?" and "Do you think something should be done to fix our nation's infrastructure?" — these will elicit similar responses from candidates. Choose one of them to ask all candidates for whom you'd like to ask this question.

  • Review questions for legibility/comprehension

It should be clear what you're asking and why you're asking it. For example, asking "What will you do to recover our freedoms promised in the Bill of Rights?" might make sense to a person asking the question. But it's not clear what it's specifically referring to or hoping to learn about a candidate.

  • Make sure that you are not asking double- or triple-barreled questions

For example, a question that asks “Do you think that community funds should be used for the police budget and public education?” should actually be broken up into two questions: (1) “Do you think that community funds should be used for the police budget?” and (2) “Do you think that community funds should be used for public education?” 

  • Avoid agree-disagree formats where possible - instead of asking “How much do you agree or disagree that the mayor is doing a good job?” ask “Do you think the mayor is doing a good job? Why or why not?”

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