Polls, Surveys and Market Research: Just Say No

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It must be the Zip Code. I receive at least one survey query (by phone) a month. On one occasion I have been called by a polling outfit that was doing a New York Times poll.

I stiff 'em. Every one of 'em. 100%. No exceptions. I don't care if it's the New York Times or the local radio station marketing survey. My opinions belong to me. Once I give them away to every Tom, Dick or Harry I don't know what use will be made of them. Most likely, they are like the statements made to an arresting officer, where, "whatever I say may be used against me."

I have heard that this phenomenon is spreading. More and more, polling firms are running into resistance. It takes more and more phone calls before a sampling is completed because so many folks are stiffing 'em.

I say Hoorah! Let's make it 99% non-compliance. Let's make them dial their index fingers to a bloody stump before they get a straight answer. Or would it be better to just fabricate? Lie our heads off? Give them such phony data they don't know which end is up?

So many choices. What to do? So...what do you do when the pollsters come calling?

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), September 17, 2000


Brian, there are many polls I'm happy to stiff, but for some, I want my opinion to count. Am I (as one who is sure to vote) interested in campaign finance reform? Hell yes!

-- Peter Errington (petere@ricochet.net), September 17, 2000.


You must be on different lists than I am. I don't get many calls from pollsters. But I do get calls from telemarketers. I treat them both the same way. I hang up, immediately, without a word.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), September 17, 2000.

>> I want my opinion to count. <<

Votes count. Opinions are used. I think it is a big mistake to believe your answering an opinion poll has any resemblance to voting. With voting you know the rules, the purpose and the outcome.

With opinion polls you are simply handing over valuable information to an unknown organization, for unknown purposes, with no rules about how it used whatsoever. If the poll is being financed by someone who wants to make sure that campaign finance reform never happens, you will never know that fact. It will be hidden from you. If they follow up that first question with several more that define your opinion more closely, you may in fact be telling them what they need to know in order to neutralize your opinion.

You don't know. You can't know. And you will never be told.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), September 17, 2000.

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