Political Survey or Endurance Test?

This weekend I was cleaning the house when the phone rang. I usually don’t answer if the caller ID is something I don’t expect, but ever since I switched to Cox for my phone service provider the caller ID is generally useless. So, wanting any excuse to take a break from cleaning, I answered even though it said “out of area.”

The call started pleasantly enough. Did I have a few moments to participate in a survey about the upcoming local primary? Sure.

As the survey droned on for 20 plus minutes, it was evident that the surveyor wanted to determine how to get an edge for a candidate with the voters. It wasn’t clear if the candidate behind the survey was Gerry Connelly (I wanted to link to his campaign web site but I was not able to find it) or Leslie Byrne http://www.lesliebyrne.org/index.php.

I was struck by a number of things:

  • The survey was so long it became an endurance test, not only for my patience but for the poor retired teacher on the other end who was literally getting hoarse from all the talking.
  • The survey questions were so wordy and multi-faceted that my responses could have been to any number of elements contained within each question. Questions were literally 1 minute or longer for her to read and had so many phrases, ands and assumptions thrown in that I was never sure how to respond.

But the most amazing part of this survey, is the author seemed to think that the survey could actually be used to change the minds of the voters surveyed. Sprinkled in between other questions was one question that was repeated: “Who do you plan to vote for in the primary?” As if the survey questions were enough to make me change my planned vote. Honestly!

Communicators, please do better than this when you construct your surveys and, please, don’t assume the respondents are so unintelligent to be swayed by your questions…