DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 6 2016

And The Survey Says…

by Camille B

Scoreborad 1The Family Feud has always been one of my favorite game shows, and I assume it has been for millions of other viewers as well.

But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been curious about the research they did for the questions they asked.  Exactly who are these hundred nameless, faceless people that they interview to come up with those top answers?

We all know the catch phrases well: We surveyed one hundred people; top answers are on the board or We asked one hundred men what was the worst gift they ever gave their wife…

Who are these hundred people and where do they find them?

A simple question I know, the answer won’t change my life in any significant way, nor anyone else’s for that matter, but I’m curious all the same.

What I do know is this, I have never been one of those hundred people myself, have you? I have never been randomly approached by someone on the street and asked to name a reason why a baby might be cranky; or have someone come up to me at the mall and ask me to give a woman’s name beginning with “J.” So if not me or you, who are they asking?

When I began doing a little research of my own, I soon discovered that there was surprisingly, very little information on the topic; most people who were as curious as I was, found their answers in the same place I did, an article in the WSJ’s back in 2008.

According to this research, the way the poll is taken today has changed as compared to earlier years when the show first started, where the surveys were taken among viewers themselves who had volunteered to be on the show’s mailing list.

Today it’s done through a hired polling firm who conducts the surveys by telephone. The surveyors don’t disclose that it’s Family Feud (I guess the answers might be more outrageous if they did) and the respondents are asked 30 to 40 questions submitted by writers and consultants for the show. How do they get them to stay on the phone for that long? I have no idea.

Apart from game shows there are many different types of surveys conducted everyday for, well just about everything; from things that can actually be quite helpful to someone in the long run, to the compiling of senseless data that at the end of the day turns out to be quite useless.

We have business or marketing polls, phone surveys, internet polls, magazine surveys, and employee surveys. You can even get paid by companies to take their surveys online. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can go to one of those user friendly websites like Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo and create a survey of your own.

Are these surveys always accurate and efficient? According to an article in This Nation.com, they can be when conducted properly. “To be accurate, the questions on a survey must be asked of a group of people–what pollsters call a sample–that is representative of the larger population. The questions themselves must also be good indicators of the opinions or attitudes the pollster is trying to measure and the questions must also be asked consistently from one person to the next.”

So maybe the next time the phone rings, and you’re hastily trying to get rid of the person on the other end- who you’re certain is a telemarketer or bill collector- pause for a moment and think, they just might have 30 or 40 interesting questions to ask you.

Polls & Surveys: undertsanding what they tell us– Norman M. Bradburn/ Seymour Sudman

The Super Pollsters: how they measure and manipulate public opinion in America- David W Moore






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