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Surveys and Polls are Indicators NOT Facts

cartoon man completing a survey

Surveys and opinion polls are a great way to build a case for your “argument” … whatever that argument might be.

They are a great way to build credibility and thus bolster a brand … by positioning the surveying organization as thought leaders.

There are many such surveys each month, and because they are useful I will reference them in my monthly looks at the industry news, or my quarterly look at the job situation across Canada.

There are surveys of CEOs to gauge their optimism … and the survey will go out to several hundred CEOs, of which some percentage will answer a few questions that will roll up into a “pulse” of what CEO’s are feeling.

There will be similar surveys of households, or accountants or engineers or any number of groups to gather the data.

Here is the thing about these surveys …

1.  The participants typically represent a minute portion of the whole population.

2.  If the “mailing list” used is not totally random, geographically, by size of company, by industry etc. then there is a bias introduced before the survey even goes out.

3.  If the response to the survey is small, for any number of reasons, then the results are even less statistically relevant.

4.  Most companies doing a survey have in mind a result that they would like … so the questions asked might well lead to an answer that is not free of bias.

So what …

Take survey results with a pinch of salt.  Just like you should not believe everything you read in the newspaper, and certainly not everything you read on the internet (except this of course :-)) … you should be equally wary of survey results.

Having said all that, I think I will go and design a survey of my blog readers that will determine the “genius level ” of the writer!   Let me see, who can I invite to vote?  My mom, my wife, my kids, my siblings, my buddies … I’m pretty sure this will turn out well!