February 18, 2014 (RARC-WP-14-009)

In May 2013, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) commissioned a survey to gain insight into what Internet-connected Americans want from the Postal Service, as well as what future role it could play in their lives. The OIG recently followed up with focus groups, to determine not only what people want, but also to identify particular kinds of service they need from the Postal Service. The results are detailed in a new white paper, What America Wants and Needs from the Postal Service.

The focus groups were controlled to mirror U.S. demographic characteristics. The biggest source of differing opinions was between urban and rural Americans. Put another way, geography was a significant factor in the public’s wants and needs from the Postal Service. For instance, rural participants viewed post offices as community centers, while urban participants saw them as a convenience, and those perceptions underpinned expectations of what kinds of services should be available.

Another key finding, which was also true for the survey respondents in OIG’s prior work, was that a majority of participants mistakenly believed the Postal Service is funded by taxpayer dollars. When they learned the Postal Service is self-funded, much like any other business, nearly everyone’s views and expectations began to soften, allowing for greater flexibility and compromise on service.

What Americans need from the Postal Service is much less than what they want, but they are willing to make trade-offs to maintain a certain level of service. The white paper highlights the differences and similarities in preferences for postal offerings throughout a sample population of Americans.

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