Opinion Polls, Panels and Surveys
Wednesday November 29th 2006, 7:26 pm

One of my pet peeves is getting phone calls from telemarketers or any kind of market researchers, especially when I am in the middle of doing something or having a meal. I always tell them that I’m not interested and hang up. I don’t know many people who would actually take the time to do these polls or surveys, unless they are lonely or are a “shut in” with no one to talk to. I wonder what kind of people are giving their views for these poll takers, and if they are a true reflection of the general population.

Even though I don’t like doing telephone surveys, I regularly take part in two online opinion panels. They are sent to my email address about once a month and take between 5 and 30 minutes to complete. They ask my opinion on everything from products I use, music I listen to or stores I buy from. A few times a year, they send me coupons for various household products to thank me for participating. I know that marketing research is important for companies, so I don’t mind helping, but prefer to do it online, so I can do it when I have the time. There are dozens of online surveys and in order to get people interested, they offer chances to win cash prizes or some of them will pay participants cash to complete the surveys.

I wouldn’t be interested in the ones who offer to pay you cash because I would be leary of scams. There are many online survey sites which promise that you can make thousands of dollars working in your own home. This sounds too good to be true, so it probably is. There are even websites where you have to pay to get databases of surveys who pay participants. That should ring some bells that most of these are scams. There are probably some honest ones, so anyone interested, should do some investigating before sending anyone money.

About twenty years ago, we participated in a AC Nielsen television viewing survey. We completed a form for every television in our house to show every program we watched for one week. At the time, I enjoyed doing it because I liked being part of a survey showing which programs we preferred. It took some time to complete, so I wouldn’t want to have done it for more than one week. Today this company is called Nielsen Media Research and they still rank viewership of television shows on a weekly basis, but they do it online. They also have a company called Nielsen/NetRatings which monitors which sites over 500,000 websurfers visit and which search engine they use. The latest stats show that 49.2% use Google, 23.8% Yahoo, 9.6% MSN, 6.3% AOL, 2.6% Ask and 8.5% others. I’m sure they have expanded beyond television and the internet because surveys and polls are more important today than they have ever been.

One of the panels I belong to is Global Opinion Panels and they have a website with the results of the various surveys I have participated in. They have stats on what Canadians are eating, Canadian family trends, smoking in Canada, television viewing in Canada, volunteer work of Canadians and much more. It’s important for companies to get the opinions of the average Canadian so they can provide the products and services we want and need.

Our daily newspaper has an online reader’s poll and everyday they poll the newspaper’s readers about their opinion of a current news story. Sometimes I agree with the majority and sometimes not, but the answers are always interesting. Today the question was “Some local health professionals say Halifax needs a safe injection site for addicts. Do you agree?” The results were: Yes - 1,219 votes - 39%, No - 1,453 votes - 47% and Don’t know - 422 votes - 14%. I can understand why the majority of voters feel that taxpayers shouldn’t pay for a safe injection site for drug addicts because that makes it easier for them to continue using drugs. Voters who thought about it more thoroughly, would vote yes, because taxpayers will have to pay anyway if the drug addicts get AIDS or other diseases from dirty needles. Everyone has their own reason for thinking the way they do, but every opinion counts.