“Surveys” – Your Help Requested

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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