Surveys and market researches: reliable results?

After Brexit, American election day (as well as after every wrong electoral prediction) pollsters and researchers are under discussion. The recurring question is:

Is it possible to make mistakes so clamorous?

First of all it must be said that political pollster and market researcher do different jobs, only in some way similar.

The shared aspect is the focus on a target, the not shared thing is the frequency of contact (daily for policies, episodic or in a moderate repetition for the market).

Honesty, I donÕt think we need to question the credibility of a job: instead we need to clearly understand its characteristics.

This job relies its basis on solid foundations (statistics for Quantitative, Psychological for Qualitative) but it is fundamentally based on hinges of

evolutionary study, experience, common sense, adaptation.

Personally I would not question the division and the professionalism / ethics of those who work there (on the Institute side and on the Client side). Those in the sector can distinguish who work seriously from those who do not.


Photo by Deedster

They remain Respondents and Method of Investigation

  • Respondent

They could be liars, undecided, doubtful, confused: certainly they are SUBJECT to lots of interviews and perhaps they have enough.

If consulted at the wrong moment, they could give answer without bearing head and soul.
Of course, a good sampling that takes into account all segments of the population and contemplates a low statistical error helps to limit blunders.
But even a proper detection channel is important: telephone interviews are more invasive than email ones, for example.

But this is not enough, you also need to understand how, when and for how long to contact them: this is common sense.

Moreover, as regards the SINCERITY of the answers in the market researches such as those I deal with (unlike the political/electoral ones) I believe that the respondent has all the interest to be sincere because he knows he is improving a service, a product, a process and he feels the centre of the attention of the companies in the sector.


Photo by Arenamontanus

In political researches, maybe, the respondent doesn’t always see the convenience to respond sincerely, perhaps he is not even interested in make his own contribution to subjects that doesnÕt respect a lot and that reserve him so few attentions day-by-day.

  • Method of analysis

If it is based on the historical series today the risk is very high.

The world changes, it is projected towards the future.

The time series are dangerous because they do not take into account the fact that the context in which we live (all over the world) is ‘liquid’, changeable: like being on another planet compared to the past.

  • Questionnaire

A questionnaire is rational but people think less and less rationally; sometimes they go with their gut, they make trade-offs on subjective and varied bases.

Therefore the direct question, as such, responds with a partial truth.


Photo by LoopZilla

It must be controlled and invigorated by ‘truth testing‘ to generate a 100% reliable result.

Strangely enough, the methods that allow us to enter into life, culture, in the logic of the target win for accuracy of the data: very precise exercises, very interesting and … very expensive.

  • ETHNOGRAPHY observations (style / environment of life, accompanying during the shopping, …) make you understand where the world really goes, beyond the declared aspect.
  • DISCUSSION GROUPS allow to approach the target with direct and indirect methods through which to cross and understand the logic of social conditioning and differences between what is said and what one thinks (differences often significant).

It’s very quick to reply “easy answers to easy questions“… to have a reliable data we need to think well of all the paths that is right to take in that specific case.

Translated by Federica Izzo

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