What People Think of Surveys
One resource that we give far too little thought in market research are the people who offer their time and thoughts about the stuff we are researching. They are truly the lifeblood of market research.
An article in the spring 2011 issue of Public Opinion Quarterly looks at trends over the last thirty years in Americans’ view of polling and market research surveys. The news is mixed. While the vast majority feel that public opinion polling is generally a good thing, fewer feel that market research surveys serve a useful purpose, and trust in the industry is not so great. The most worrisome news (but not surprising, given the number of truly bad surveys flooding our lives nowadays) is the steady decline in people saying that participating in research is interesting and in their best interest:
In addition to the chart above, key statistics outlined in the article include:
- Nearly nine out of ten (87%) feel that public opinion polls, on the whole, are a good thing
- Four out of five (79%) say that the last time they were interviewed for research, it was a pleasant experience
- Two-thirds (68%) agree that research surveys help manufacturers or other organizations produce better products and services for consumers
- About half (54%) feel that the research industry serves a useful purpose.
- Just one third (34%) trust pollsters to tell the truth, though twice as many (64%) believe that most polls give results that are “pretty nearly right”
- Just one-quarter (29%) think that survey organizations can be trusted to protect their privacy
- One-quarter (25%) feel that answering questions in polls or research surveys is a waste of time
Clearly the research industry (and our clients) can do much to improve. Here are two quick ideas as a start. (1) Next time you are tempted to send yet another survey to your customers, ask whether it’s purpose is to benefit them or you—if it’s the latter, don’t send it. (2) Next time you are tempted to send out a 45-minute survey with grid after grid of repetitive measures, work more carefully with the people who will use the research to specify which of those measures can truly be acted upon.
A more careful and thoughtful approach to research will benefit you and your customers, and it will boost the confidence that our publics have in research and polling. Versta Research would be delighted to work with you in making this happen.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.