Here’s Why Market Research Needs Your Patriotism
As we celebrate the 4th of July in the U.S. this year, please make it an occasion to reflect on some of the fundamental values and public goods of our country that make market research possible.
There is so much infrastructure that has been built before us. Not just road and railways, but also public schools and universities that educated millions and fostered research, giving us things like … computers and statistics! There are so many American values we have come to rely on, rarely grasping how fragile they are. Things like equality, fairness, dignity, opportunity … without them, few of us would be doing our work today.
Some of these public goods and values that fuel our business and your business, and our mutual interest in research, are being strained to new limits. So how about joining us in some “professional patriotism” on three important fronts this year:
- Protect respondent privacy. One magic piece of market research is that we can ask people to share with us their most private thoughts, opinions, and behaviors, and they will tell us. They stop sharing (and should stop sharing) if it is no longer confidential and secure. Rights of privacy are written into our Constitution, and yet there is more personal data than ever before being stored, analyzed, sold, and used in ways that do private and public harm. When privacy is under threat, good market research is under threat.
- Protect the census. At least once or twice a year I remind my colleagues and our customers how essential U.S. census data is to our work and their business. The census provides a foundation of data and rigorous methodology that makes our economic and social system work. It tells us where to put roads, railways, hospitals, housing, and fiber optic cables. It tells us who needs more of what, giving companies like yours the opportunity to solve problems that will make the world better. The census is under intense political pressure these days, and it desperately needs our defense.
- Protect the truth. Who would have thought the idea of “truth” could become endangered in our culture, but the last two years are worrisome. I could get broadly philosophical about why truth matters in society … but please think about it from a purely professional point of view: truth is foundational to your work. Research presumes that there is a truth to be known, discovered, uncovered, and understood. It also presumes that knowing the truth is valuable and good and worth pursuing. Research isn’t needed in a culture where lies are valued as an acceptable way to wield power.
There is so much at stake for us professionally, no less than there is for the social fabric of America. Celebrate with us this 4th of July by recognizing how important it is to stand for and defend the values and public goods that we all cherish as market research professionals.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.