The essay of June 22 hit home this last week. I am on the Company X internet panel. They sent me a survey with a new wrinkle. Inside of it two or three screens down was another survey from Company Y about pharmaceuticals (a survey within a survey). Well, as a Christian Scientist, I do not have much experience with these products. I have purchased a few over-the-counter medications for my older foster children but other than that my input isn't at all meaningful. These products were the kind you need to have a doctor's prescription for. There were no screening questions so that I'm assuming that the researchers think everyone in the country must be using at least one from each group of about ten categories of medications.I don't think I would ever imply that this former Christian Science Monitor employee is ill informed.
So these questions were accompanied by a simulated shelf set for products I am completely unfamiliar with and none of the scales included a choice of "never use" or "n/a" or some such way to opt out of a choice, thus forcing me to answer by choosing a brand of product randomly. For most of the items, I did not even know what physical problem one would use it for. It was very frustrating to say the least.
Then later in the survey, it went back to the Company X poll and there were questions about magazines, both those people read occasionally and those they subscribe for. Again, the choices were limited and did not reflect my reading habits at all -- nor did the questions take into account that a lot of the magazines are now in electronic form on line instead of print-only copies. Whole categories of interest were not included.
Later, Company X poll panelists are sent summaries of the research they participate in. The one about magazines was labeled "the shrinking group of reading public" concluding that only a few people are now well informed to make intelligent decisions. My answers would have grouped me into the so-called majority of "ill-informed" people simply because the list did not include my categories of reading such as religion, philosophy, education, archeology, classical literature, etc. Since I keep up with current events by reading on-line media, that wasn't even counted. I can see some reporter or educator picking up this survey information and using it to say that (according to a Company X poll) a good percentage of folks in the U.S. are ill informed and pretty much illiterate. [We do suffer with illiteracy but I don't think the survey I took would prove that.]
So when your essay came, I really identified with your statement, ". . . are the responses attributed to the thinking and experiences of the respondent or that of the researcher?" Have a great time on Independence Day -- Janet
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