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29 August 2011

I quite enjoy reading polls on all sorts of subjects, but over the years something has dawned on me. I don’t know if it’s that those who answer polls officially are so different, or if I am. But time and time again I read the results of a poll and discover that the answers bear no relation to those I’d provide/have provided.
Take a National poll conducted by a well-known bookshop on the 50 most popular books by women, I read down the list that was published as the outcome of the poll, read it again, and blinked. I read hugely and widely, probably averaging 500-750 books a year, I read in most genres including non-fiction (frequently research for the twenty plus books I’ve had published) I knew twenty-eight of the books listed, and was aware of thirty-five of the listed authors. But of the fifty books listed I’d liked only three and I hadn’t liked them sufficiently to put them on the list I ultimately submitted for the poll.
And then there was the “who’s watching what” poll, whose results were recently listed in a national television magazine. They noted the twenty most popular programmes, and of all of them I watched exactly none. Yet I watch around 25 hours worth of television a week, just, apparently, not the programmes that were claimed to be the most popular and that other viewers were listing as their “most-watched”.
Then there are the women’s magazine polls with their questions; Do you do this? (No, I don’t.)
If you were in this situation would you do a), b), c), or d?) (Actually, considering my alternatives, I wouldn’t do any of them.)
Then there’s what your preferences say about you. If you like this colour predominantly then it says this about your personality. (I don’t like any of the listed colours predominantly – so what does THAT say about my personality – apart – of course – from my being a contrary so-an-so?)
If you were in this position, they ask, would you take the following steps – a, b, c, and d. again? (None of them. I’d take an unlisted ‘h’, which seems like a far more logical response to the situation posed.)
And as for what your facial features, palm lines, body shape, and year of birth say about you, none of it seems to apply, and I can’t help wondering if it applies to anyone at all.
After which there are the phone calls. “Hello, I’m from such-and-such market research company. Would you mind answering the following questions?” (I’m always happy to do that, but so often I find that none of the choices I’m given as answers to their questions fit with my own choices. I end up selecting whatever is closest to what I’d choose – and that can be quite some distance away.)
So am I that vastly different from the standard human, or just from those who normally answer polls? Or are those who normally answer polls giving the answers that they think the pollsters want? Or perhaps the answers that make the answerer sound the most intelligent, intellectual, sensitive, sensible, and interesting of respondents?
I don’t know. What I do know is that the answers given in polls rarely sound like me, and I can’t help but wonder at times, am I unusual – or just unusually truthful!

2 Comments »

  1. Well this has got me blushing, Lyn. Hello a very good afternoon to you, I’m Glenn from Research First… and if nothing else this is how I got to met a wonderful person.

    Comment by Glenn Hibburt — 24 March 2016 @ 19:33

  2. I remember you, nice to hear again, and I can say that the poll I did for you was one where I could answer honestly, without a lot of consideration if the responses ‘fitted.’ I do do polls when asked. Back in the ’70s I worked 9-5 for what was then a major Ad Agency in Wellington, on the side I did surveys for them. Not on the phone, but on foot. And in memory of all the great people that invited me inside, gave me tea and scones, and answered the most intrusive questions (How much to you spend on drink each week? Do you share that or drink it all within the family? How much did you pay for your house/car/wedding?) and all without throwing me down their steps, I now, if I can find the time, cooperate in any survey. Mostly I find it interesting anyway, polls indicate what someone wants to know, and the way the questions may be slanted can tell you too, what they want to hear. All is grist to a writer’s mill.

    Comment by lyn — 25 March 2016 @ 12:21

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