top of page

Local Data


Data that represents the community is important because it helps local policymakers understand to what extent the community needs are being met. And the truth is that local policymakers love local data, because they want to be the most knowledgeable about the area they represent. Such makes local data a powerful tool that can move local policy change, especially around a public health issue such as tobacco control; which is why it is essential to use local data as a means to strengthen policy campaigns. 


Primary Data

Primary data is data that is obtained first-hand from people who have a direct connection to the topic. It comes in the form of original research and reports.

Examples of primary data sources include:

  • Public Opinion Polls

    • WHAT?​: Public opinion polls are non-biased surveys or inquiries intended to measure the public's views about a specific topic, or a series of topics.

    • WHY?: The data collected from a public opinion poll will tell you what proportion of the public has a specific viewpoint. This is important because it not only gives people an opportunity to be heard, but it also helps assess the views people have.

    • HOW?: This type of data is collected in the following ways - by telephone, face to face interviews, mail, online and self-administered surveys.

  • Focus Groups

    • WHAT?:​ Focus groups are guided discussions, intended for a small group of people (typically between 4-15 people), that focus on a specific product or topic.

    • WHY?: Focus groups allow a group of people to think together as they provide feedback. This tends to be useful because it allows the facilitator of the discussion to provide a broader range of information, and it gives detailed information about personal and group feelings, perceptions and opinions.

  • Key Informant Interviews

    • WHAT?:​ Key informant interviews are in-depth interviews with individuals who know and understand the community.

    • WHY?: Key informant interviews obtain information from a wide range of people who have first-hand knowledge about the community's standing and needs. This information can be useful when considering solutions for a community issue. 

    • HOW?: This type of information is collected in the following ways - by telephone and face to face interviews.

  • Store Observation Surveys

    • WHAT?: Store observational surveys are studies in which the observation method is used in a retail environment.

    • WHY?: The observation method attempts to collect observations to understand cause and effect relationships. This type of data can be useful for those that are interested in understanding the retail environment and its relationship to other things like health. 

  • Litter Audits

    • WHAT?:​ Litter audits are inspections or examinations of litter in a particular area.

    • WHY?: Litter audit data can be used to understand if there is a litter problem in a personalized local context. This information can be used to help design solutions for local areas that are facing a litter problem and move towards a more environmentally-healthy future.



Secondary Data

Secondary data is just one step away from primary sources, though it usually quotes or makes use of primary sources. This type of data may cover the same topics as primary data, but has an added layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary data is pre-existing data that comes from non-original research.

Examples of secondary data sources include -

  • California Healthy Kids Survey

    • A survey database in the state of California that obtains data to further increase the understanding of students' health behaviors and academic performance.​​​

    • Follow the link here to access this source: 

  • CHIS Neighborhood Edition

    • Online resource for the state of California that provides health estimates at the local level

    • Follow the link here to access this source:

  • California Student Tobacco Survey

    • This is a large-scale, in-school survey in the state of California, performed to assess the behavior and attitudes middle and high-school students have ​about tobacco usage.

    • The 2015-2016 survey can be found by following the link here: 

  • California Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey

    • This survey is an annual survey in the state of California, required by the Federal Synar amendment and the California Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act. It is an unannounced survey of ​a random sample of retail outlets that sell tobacco products statewide, to obtain an estimate calculation of the overall state illegal sales rate to minors.

    • The 2016 survey can be found by following the link here:


Your policy campaign is encouraged to take-on data collection projects (like the ones listed for "Primary Data" above), or make use of pre-existing data sources (such as the ones listed under "Secondary Data"), to support local policy efforts in your community. Each resource listed along this page was added to help guide the understanding and purpose of the different types of local data available.  

bottom of page