Engaging Low-Income Communities through SMS Polls

SMS-Sourced Feedback

An increasing number of organizations are turning to SMS as their preferred polling channel given its high engagement potential and low-touch nature. SMS is a particularly important channel for organizations who wish to engage low-income communities in the US, as 84% of adults with an income lower than $30,000 own a cell phone - 81% of which send and receive text messages (Pew Research Center).

Street Chat

A Great Nonprofits initiative, Citizen Insight’s Street Chat uses TextIt’s flow engine to build dynamic, automated, conversational surveys that engage low-income communities via SMS, providing actionable feedback for policy makers and nonprofits. Specifically, Street Chat seeks to give the underserved a voice, allowing change-makers to stay informed, identify trends, improve participation and ultimately improve social programs. This was the first social-media survey evaluating health insurance in California.

Affordable Care Act Case Study

Street Chat’s inaugural study, conducted earlier this year by Stanford’s Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions (SPARQ) program in conjunction with Great Nonprofit’s Citizen Insights initiative, gave voice to low-income people of color who are impacted by the Affordable Care Act. The chat-based mobile survey, designed using TextIt, was completed by 824 participants in metropolitan areas around Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, who comprise 90% of those engaged.


Results from those with insurance:  

  • Access to care was not a barrier, with 86% of respondents saying it was "easy" or "very easy" to get an appointment

  • About 69% used their insurance to see a doctor

  • About three-fourths of respondents (77%) said insurance was affordable for them

  • 93% said their co-pay charge was affordable

  • 84% of respondents liked their provider

Results from those without insurance:

  • 57% tried and failed to get health insurance

  • Another 28% were still waiting to hear about their insurance status

  • Of those uninsured respondents who applied online, 63% reported failure

  • 87% of uninsured people who applied by phone reported failure 

The results indicate that those who have insurance are largely satisfied with its cost and quality, but also revealed that phone and online application touchpoints might require improvement. 


Nearly 100% of participants agreed to take future surveys, having the completed the survey within 2 hours of receiving the initial message.

Click here to learn about the study and get in touch with Citizen Insights.

Build Your Own

Click here to sign up for a free TextIt account to build and deploy your own chat-based mobile survey.