Thursday, August 5, 2010

Survey Says: Not Very Much! Part II

I love looking at the way polls are reported on. I work in a sector of market research where I'm lucky in that I rarely do the marketing stuff. I can't remember the last time I had to write a torqued headline for a dull press release. It's nice because I can get up on my high horse when the media puts out truly craptacular stories like this one from, you guessed it, QMI:

QMI poll: Half would tell truth on census

Oh my! Well that's disturbing, isn't it? Maybe I, and so many others, have been wrong in our assumption that Canadians, by and large, reply to census questions truthfully. Could it be true that 1 out of every 2 of those people walking by outside, 50% of the folks reading this post, have a deep-seated hatred of Statistics Canada and go out of their way to lie on the census? Um, no.

Read a bit farther (and I'm curious about how many in QMI's audience do) and you'll see that the headline is extraordinarily misleading. First, the question wasn't "Would you tell the truth on the census?", it was:

"If the mandatory Canadian census form contained questions that you considered to be very personal and embarrassing, what would you be most likely to do?"

So right off the bat, we see the question is garbage. However, even with the silly question, the results are not as simple as QMI let on in their headline:

54% said they would tell the truth
24% said they would leave embarrassing questions blank
5% said they would lie
15% said they didn't know

So even if the question is very personal and embarrassingy , like "boxers or briefs?" or "honestly, do you read the Sun?", only 5% of survey respondents said they would lie. Just think, you're going to be able to get this kind of top notch story on TV soon!

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