Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lies, damn lies and opinion polls

Sure sign that it's election time ...

I was on my way out the door this afternoon when I got an auto bot phone call from Ekos Research. They don't even have live people asking the opinion polls anymore -- they make you use your push button phone. Two minute poll:
  1. Are you a Canadian citizen?
  2. Are you going to vote in the upcoming general election?
  3. Which party are you going to vote for?
  4. Which party did you vote for in 2006?

And then the cross-tab questions (age group, sex, income).

They say that the chances the average person will get polled at least once in his or her lifetime is about 1 in 23. That sounds like a load of bunk. I seem to get these calls about every two to three months from just about every legitimate polling firm out there. Meanwhile, people of greater import never get called even once.

Grin and bear it, I suppose. I'd rather be honest with these polls, than a blatant push poll that asks leading questions from the start to elicit a specific response.

By the way, my answers were: Yes, yes, Liberal, Green.

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ottlib said...

That's funny because I have never been called for a political poll.

Anonymous said...

I have call dosplay and I don't know what the mnmber would look like/ Some say unknown. or blocked call.

BlastFurnace said...

Interestingly, Ekos' name was on the caller ID and they had a return toll free number which I could verify. Some of the other polling firms are spotty -- all display their numbers but not all say the name. However, in the message or the live voice, the legit firms always say who they are at the top.

Unless it's someone like Ekos, Gallup, Ipsos, Leger or CROP, hang up. They're trying to sell you something.

Steve V said...

Ipsos called me once, and I was like "finally". Then they started asking me if I liked CATFISH. Geez.

BlastFurnace said...

Don't you love that? (Or hate it) On the occasions I have been called, they ask all sorts of questions about financial institutions, entertainment, eating habits -- and save the political questions to the very end, about twenty minutes later.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Washington, DC, my partner in the US received what I considered the most complete poll I have ever heard. It was a New York Times / CBS News poll (I think the network partner was CBS, might have been ABC). At any rate, they actually left two detailed messages before reaching him, explaining who they were, identifying him as the specific individual they wished to speak with, and outlining exactly why they were calling.

When he did speak with them, the poll took about 20 minutes, and it was on a number of election-related issues - from candidates to a full range of issues. It was extremely thorough, not only comprised of questions but also providing him an opportunity to comment extemporaneously on various topics.

And at the end, they told him exactly when the poll would be compiled and what day it would be released, in case he was interested in seeing the final report himself.

Sure enough, that following Sunday there was one of those full page polling reports, with graphs and detailed article discussing the results. He wasn't quoted specifically, but the article clearly contained quotes taken from the polling.

It was refreshing for both of us to see what a "real" poll could look like. Ever since, I give a lot more credit to those true "analysis" polls you see from reputable news sources. I tend to overlook automated polls, which I've received on a couple of occasions as well and just hung up on.

Anyone, it definitely made an impression on both of us, as it was entirely out of the blue.

Suzanne said...

Here's the thing about political polls. They don't always announce themselves as such. Sometimes the caller will announce that his poll is a generic "social affairs" poll, or they'll tuck in a question on voting intentions on an unrelated poll.

I answer every phone that I get.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, since no toll-free INWATS number can make an outgoing call, I look on any calls from a toll-free area code much the same way I look at spam. If you have a fraudulent return address, I'll ignore you.

Polling firms take note.

Also, since most young people use cellphones as their main number, and since the polling companies only contact landlines, most polls are skewed older and are not as reliable as they were just 10 years ago.

BlastFurnace said...

On that last one, you're going to see polling companies take a different tack: Get people to "subscribe" to the daily joke or sex tip of the day or whatever, and among those text messages will be an invitation to participate in a survey. The answers would also be returned in SMS format.