Surveys are not alike in accuracy or intent

While it is not a new phenomenon, survey results are often touted without clarity around the accuracy and veracity of the survey results. Some surveys are not worth the paper they are written on or cyberspace they waste, while others are more marketing pitches than they are surveys. In other words, the survey is a ruse for the organization to tell you what they think.

Last year, I received a survey from the ACLU around voting and the election process. While I eagerly opened this up as it is a concern of mine, I was highly disappointed in the leading questions, that made the survey biased. The topic deserved better treatment than it was given by the surveyors. Last month, I received a survey from the Republican National Party which wanted my input on the key issues facing Americans. This survey was quite biased and leading with its questions and overlooked some of the major issues and concerns for Americans.

It was accompanied by a transmittal letter that was even more biased. Yet, the survey was not the intent of this package. The intent was to tell me what to think with the leading questions. To illustrate my point, here are a few examples from the cover letter:

“Obamacare is a political, administrative and logistical nightmare that is creating havoc and proving excessively costly and harmful to millions of individuals, families, and businesses. Do you fear Obamacare….is going to destroy America’s health system?…”

“Do you think our Republican leaders in Congress should be aggressive in forcing the Obama White House to work with them to create jobs, cut taxes and regulations, end economic uncertainty and make Americans more competitive?”

I could go on, but the cover letter was replete with comments like this before you got to the survey. The questions were not much better leading you to the conclusion that everything the President did was wrong and the Republicans had all the white horses and answers. Also, issues like climate change and eco-energy were not discussed in detail. Issues like poverty in America were not discussed. Issues like investing in our crumbling infrastructure was not discussed. An amendment to not equate money with free speech was not discussed. And, so on.

To further this point, I had to list myself as “other” as while the survey had “Independent leaning Conservative” they did not have “Independent” or “Independent leaning Liberal” as choices. I completed the survey and noted several times where the survey was asking biased questions. To me, the survey had little to do with getting feedback, although I am sure the conservative bent feedback will be used. To me the key goal was to market to the recipient with the simple message – Democrats bad, Republicans good.

That is unfortunate as a survey that asks good questions about our concerns would be relevant. Yet, when you spoon feed people biased information, even reasonable looking surveys have to be taken with a grain of salt. Obamacare is a great example. It is working pretty well on a number of fronts, yet it could be improved. Yet, most people, pundits and politicians do not know what it is. I received a canned response letter from Congressman today who gave me campaign rhetoric on Obamacare. It was such a disappointing letter, I responded with my disappointment and concerns giving him additional facts and reputable resources of information.

We need truth seekers to help find and disseminate the truth. Unfortunately, we will only be getting the party’s version of the truth, so we must look beyond them for answers. When our leaders govern with campaign rhetoric, they will have a hard time solving our problems. So, please look at the source of survey before giving it any veracity. Many surveys do not deserve the attention they get.


9 thoughts on “Surveys are not alike in accuracy or intent

  1. Your completed survey almost certainly went directly into the circular file. You are spot on, of course. Folks simply don’t know what a good poll consists of. We will believe anything as long as a figure is attached to the claim. I know this because 73.6% of those I polled agree.

    • Hugh, I am sure it did get tossed. The other dilemma is the stats get used and reused, by pseudo-newscasters and politicians, that the lack of veracity becomes moot – people start believing their own BS. Thanks for your comment and stat. BTG

  2. I’m surprised the Republican Party even bothered to send you a survey. I suspect they prefer to spend their survey dollars on a known quantity, rather than an independent thinker like you.

    • Linda, with less than 1/3 people listed as a Republican, the party has to reach out to Independents. With my demographic make-up, white male in his 50s in a reasonably nice area, I am sure they presume I would lean right. While I tend to be fiscally conservative (wanting a ROI in our investments be they to help people or rebuild bridges), I tend to be socially progressive. Yet, the key reason for the mailing is the marketing of message. Some GOP voters would find it surprising that the economy is doing well and Obamacare is working pretty well, given the constant barrage of messages that it is not. Thanks for your comment, BTG

  3. Note to Readers: I am reminded about a phone survey off a presidential candidate that played a three minute commercial at the beginning and then wanted me to answer the questions. I told the surveyor, you realize this survey is biased as a result and she was truly stunned.

  4. We get the same kinds of surveys here. The ones I usually see are ones that highlight the party’s platform and simply ask you to agree with them: “Working families deserve affordable childcare Y/N” etc.

    • So, it is not just an US phenomenon. While both major parties tend to perfume the pig, we have one party that tends to make stuff up and get you to believe it, so this approach fits in their wheelhouse. Our economy has been doing pretty well for a couple of years, but this group has convinced some that it is either not occurring or would have been a lot better if they had been in charge.

  5. Note to Readers: Of course, surveys also depend on the level of “informed survey participant.” When asked if a person was “ambivalent,” the respondent said, “No, I am left handed.” Even the best of surveys cannot overcome this kind of obstacle.

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