Normally I do not answer telephone based marketing or marketing research, I try to answer polls though, since I think that spreading my opinion even if it ends up as one hundredth of one percent in a final statistic is slightly useful. What is critical for my participation in such polls though, is that I feel that my opinion is actually represented. Lately I have participated in several polls where the poll is fundamentally flawed and would lead to misleading statistics.
Last night I was asked if I wanted to participate in a poll on politics. Since there was no marketing questions mixed in I said ok. The initial questions were quite normal ones, like “which party did you vote for …”, “which party would you vote for …” and so on.
After a while the questions deteriorated, I do not remember all of them, but one that had me quire frustrated was this:
“Do you think the norwegian government should hire private companies for public tasks?”
To me this question is a a case by case question, there is no single right answer for the different activities a government might undertake. Now the poll does not allow this answer though, it only allows “I do not know” or strong or weak versions of “agree” or “disagree”.
In another poll on an earlier occasion, I was asked:
“Do you think syntethic estrogen is more damaging for aquatic life compared to natural estrogen?”
This question was extremely confusing to me. First of all I do not know if there is a difference between syntethic and natural estrogen (or what is meant by syntethic or natural in the question), secondly the only honest and respectable answer I could give is: “Whatever is the current scientific consensus”. The poll instead has me rating how much I agree or disagree.
I really wonder what the statistics derived from these questions were used for. Which dimwit made a decision based on the “knowlege” gained from it.
I could rant about this all day, but In my opinion rants alone are not good, it is better to propose a solution. What I think would make these polls much better is if there always was a “The question is dumb” checkbox, which had to be included by law, and which also had to be included in the final statistic by law. This way no ones voice is completely misrepresented as mine probably was in these cases.