Search This Blog

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Want to do a Survey? Don't ask silly questions!

I think it might be time to conduct a survey on, well, er,  surveys.    An up-to-date survey in the popular press   tells us what  we've known known all along: that men see things differently from women. Ooh, sorry, that was yesterday...

Today it's reported, from Rochester University in the United States, that both sexes actually share 'a vast range of identical traits.' Mmmm.... really? Like the desire to win the lottery? The need to spend two weeks in the Bahamas? I can think of lots of things I share with my other half, but that doesn't make us alike. The truth is that  very often surveys are  conducted on behalf of  people who have something to sell, an axe to grind, or dare I say it,  journalists who need a story on a non-news day.

 If you happen to be famous, of course, it's even easier. Take Pippa Middleton. She presumably conducted lots of surveys before writing her book on entertaining and revealing that most English people prefer to eat turkey at Christmas... (sorry, Pippa, only joking)

When I was a child my mother, who was a stay-at-home housewife, took a part-time job doing surveys for Gallup Poll.*  She would go into people's houses and ask them their favourite foods, holidays, social habits etc, all commissioned by  companies  with something to sell. The questions were often structured to elicit the 'correct' answers  -  the participants were then given a reward, the 'interviewers' paid and  and  everyone ended up happy.

A few years ago when shopping in a major department store,  I admired the wicker baskets in all shapes and sizes used for displays. 'Where can I find these?' I asked the assistant. 'Oh' she replied chirpily 'everyone asks that, but we don't sell them I'm afraid.' A true version of the old joke, 'You're the umpteenth person who's asked today, but there's no call for them.'

So the next time you read  that 'People who like books use libraries' or 'Rich children have too much money,' spare a thought for the person who did the survey. I'm not suggesting  there aren't genuine surveys out there, but when it comes to how many crisps we all eat, personally I'd take it with a pinch of salt

* With fond memories of George Horace Gallup - the man who started it all.



Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

reminds me of the saying "figures don't lie but liars figure"
Now if you will send me an email with your address I just might have one of those sweet heart spoons to send you ... Francie
PS could you, would you turn off the word verification? It usually takes me 3 tries to get it right so mostly I give up.

Guernsey Girl said...

OOh, Francie, what a lovely thought. As soon as I can find out how to tur off the word verification I will do - I hate the thi gs too - especially since they've added numbers! Will send an e-mail now - great to her from you again. Marilyn x

Barbara said...

Hi Marilyn, your comment about the wicker baskets struck a real chord with me. A few weeks ago, I visited an antique’s market where the only thing to take my fancy was a pair of 1930s gloves. When I asked the seller how much she wanted for them her reply was – “oh no they are not for sale, I only use them for decoration.” Having just said that I think I’m guilty of the same thing on my blog, I share a lot of the things I collect but would never sell them! Maybe I need to rethink that! Barbara

Guernsey Girl said...

I take your point, Barbara, but when you share your collection people know that they are sharing the enjoyment with you. When shops have things on display - they should be selling them!!!