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I'm conducting a study in which people from a particular town will fill out an opinion questionnaire (Likert scale stuff, questions about road signs). I was going to do this in front of a grocery store, but the owner refused me when I asked for permission to do so. This is a small town, so there are only so many other businesses I could ask, and if they all say no, I'd be left with trying to conduct the survey on sidewalks. So, if I did need to simply stand on sidewalks to find respondents, would I need to get permission from the town? For further context, this is in the US.

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    Ask at city/town hall. Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 0:50
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    Whether the city/town approves or not, the owner of the business has a right to control what's going on inside the property lines of the business venue. You could park yourself just outside the parking lot on street right-of-way and the business would have no right to shoo you away. And I don't think the city could either because of 1st Amendment rights regarding speech and freedom of association. Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 1:00
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    It is the usual practice of major survey organizations to inform the local police and sheriff that they are conducting interviews. It is not usual to seek permission of civil authorities. An exception would be Indian reservations. Access is often restricted by the tribal government. Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 22:08

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Towns and other municipalities can have their own regulations that could infringe on what you are doing. For example, because you are using paper, the local trash regulation might ask you to obtain permission. Similar with states and counties.

These restrictions might be unconstitutional, but that would have to be tested in court, a situation you should try to avoid.

You might ask the local police first, since they know what laws and regulations they are supposed to enforce. Also, they might have some feed-back on where to best conduct your research. After them, the local municipal authorities should know, but since they are split in departments according to their functions, you might still violate a rule the person you are asking is not aware of. Or your question will be put to the city lawyer who is not likely to answer you within five minutes.

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