Online Surveys

Whether it is what is the most liveable place or which suburb has the best whatever, the digital world has encouraged many to poll almost everything.

And as the Hot Chocolate 1978 hit goes, Everyone’s a winner, baby.

But these polls do lie!

It pays to remember when you see the results of an online survey or poll, or when you participate in one, that:

1. All open access online surveys are essentially inaccurate, because the group that takes the time to answer the questions is usually quite different from the general public.  The respondents to such polling are even quite different from the intended target audience, despite what the Facebook algorithm says.

2. Don’t confuse a survey or poll with a census.  A survey asks a randomised group some questions and then seeks to extent the answers to an entire audience as a whole.  A census, in contrast, seeks to ask everyone in the audience.

Now you don’t need to undertake a census, what you need is to survey an appropriate representational group.  That takes time and much effort to amalgamate.  The Matusik Missive subscribers are, proudly, an example.

3. Most online surveys or polls are what is called a ‘push poll’.  The actual question asked and especially the way that it worded often changes the way the respondent feels and hence how they reply.

Two ways 

Moving forward there are two ways to best figure out how people feel or what they think.  These are, in my experience:

1. Undertake a focus-group workshop.  Time must be taken to get the right people in the room.  You are gathering people together to watch what they do when given a choice.

Also, it often works best to introduce the key topic to help start the discussion and sit back and observe without any further interference. This is what Australia’s grandfather of market research – Hugh Mackay – does.

2. Undertake an open-reply survey.  Again, time needs to be taken to make sure you send this poll to the right people.  You ask them for a few details and ask them to reply – however they like – to your key question/s.

In both cases you get to see what is said (or written) when and with what amount of conviction.  You also get to see, and read, what isn’t said, which is also very telling.

PS Thanks to Seth Godin for some key thoughts here.

Until next time,

Michael Matusik

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