“Surveys” – Your Help Requested

June 27, 2015

Fed up with dodgy surveys bringing research methodology into disrepute?

Charities seem to be joining commercial organisations in inviting participation in ‘surveys’, the punchline of which is a sales pitch or request for a donation. Peter Taylor FAcSS draws our attention to something he recently received from the British Heart Foundation (BHF). It asks the recipient to take part in a survey, by mail or online, which purports to be after information on health but morphs seamlessly into asking for at least £10. The validity of the survey – hardly a random sample – is further undermined by the BHF offering ‘the first 50’ respondents a free pedometer.

No wonder, some will say, the public get suspicious about polling; no wonder, we might add, it’s sometimes hard to make the public case for social science. Professor Taylor says if I were a member of the public with no knowledge of social research and received this I would never again answer a (genuine) request, jeopardising survey research.

Any other examples? We will be writing to the BHF and, if we are alerted to other examples, make a broader point about surveys.

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