Market Matters Blog

Commentary on the economy, public opinion, and marketing by company founder Randy Ellison


Differences Between Online and Phone Survey Results 

Studies have found that compared with the general population, Internet users have higher levels of education and are more affluent. The application of demographic weighting to both sets of data does serve to close the gap between online and face-to-face results.

However, when comparing parallel online and telephone surveys, we have seen some other differences.

These differences appear to be method effects or mode effects rather than sampling effects.

One effect is related to the respondents’ reading questions rather than hearing them. This influences responses to scales and how many people give “not sure” or “don’t know” as an answer.

Interviewer effects can have a substantial impact on survey data especially where respondents are likely to be queried about racial attitudes, sensitive behaviors and other topics prone to socially desirable responding (i.e. the tendency of respondents to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others.)

Hence, you will find a higher number of ‘Don’t know’ and ‘Neither/not sure’ responses in online surveys. This creates problems when you convert tracking surveys to online. One solution is conducting several parallel phone and online surveys to better understand how the change in methodologies will impact your results. This will give you the foundation to totally migrate your tracker to online.

For more advice on how to convert your survey from phone to online, contact us today.


Opposition To The Affordable Care (ACA) Holds Steady

Fifty-two percent of American adults polled by Gallup disapprove of the Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare). Forty-two percent believe their family would fare worse under the law.

Among the forty-four percent who support the law, 22% think it will help their family and 33% think it will have little effect. As you might guess, support was higher among Democrats and among people without health insurance.

Gallup’s findings mirror a CNN/ORC International survey conducted near the same time. In the ORC survey 43% of the public back the ACA, while 54% of the respondents say they are against it.

These findings mirror what we have seen in our own polls. A majority have opposed the bill since the law’s passage in 2010. The stability of these numbers has been rather remarkable over the past few years.


6 Tips for Writing More Effective Survey Questions

Writing solid and unbiased is a skill. While some may think that designing a questionnaire is easy, proper questionnaire construction is one of the most important steps in achieving a successful research project.

Well-designed surveys will aid in increasing the willingness of respondents to complete the survey, as well as improving the accuracy of data collected.

Here are some tips and items to look for when evaluating a survey questionnaire that will help you collect valid survey responses.

1. Avoid Leading Questions

Leading questions suggest the particular answer or contains the information the researcher is looking to have confirmed.

EXAMPLE: We have recently enhanced our menu to become a first class restaurant. What are your thoughts on our new first class menu?

REPLACE WITH: How would you rate the changes to our menu?


2. Avoid Loaded Questions

Loaded questions contain controversial or unjustified assumptions and suggest to the respondent that the researcher expects a certain answer.

EXAMPLE:  Don’t you agree that elementary school teachers should earn more money than they currently earn?

REPLACE WITH: Do you believe elementary school teachers’ salaries are a little lower than they should be, a little higher than they should be, or about right?


3. Avoid Built-in Assumptions

Do not assume the respondent is familiar with the specifications asked within the questions. Make sure you include details or additional information to give the respondent a frame of reference in answering the question.

EXAMPLE:  Are you satisfied with your current auto insurance? (Yes or No)

REPLACE WITH: Are you satisfied with your current auto insurance?

___ Yes

___ No

___ Don't have auto insurance


4. No jargon - Use Simple Language

Use words that are direct and familiar to the respondents. Do not assume that respondents are familiar with the topic that you are testing in the survey.

EXAMPLE:  Are you in favor of Proposition 13?

___ Yes

___ No

___ Undecided

REPLACE WITH: Proposition 13 would change the regulations governing casinos in Alabama and would allow casinos to expand the games allowed, size of bets, and hours of operation. If this proposal were being voted on in an election today, would you vote Yes or No?


5. Avoid Double Negatives or Double-Barreled Questions

A double-barreled question asks a question that touches upon more than one issue, yet allows only for one answer.

EXAMPLE: Please tell me whether you would vote for or against a candidate who supports reducing federal spending on education and welfare?


Q1: Please tell me whether you would vote for or against a candidate who supports reducing federal spending on education?

Q2: Please tell me whether you would vote for or against a candidate who supports reducing federal spending on welfare?


6.  Do Not Ask Respondents to Order or Rank a Series of More Than Five Items

It is difficult for respondents to order or rank a long list of items in a survey. This is particularly true for telephone surveys. Limiting the number of items to five will make it easier for the respondent to answer.

Finally, it’s best to keep surveys short and to the point. Respondents prefer closed-ended questions because these are faster and easier to complete and require less effort on their part.  A mass of unfocused open-ended answers are often less powerful than simple questions about what someone thinks about an issue, product, or service.  

If you need additional help on your project, please contact us and let us know how we can help.


How To Create Videos That Go Viral 

Viral content isn’t random or dumb luck. Research from the Journal of Marketing Research sheds light on why people share content and provides insight into designing effective viral marketing campaigns.

Video content that arouses strong emotions -- such as awe or anger -- in viewers is more likely to become viral than videos that induce sadness or relaxation. The study by Wharton professors Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman, also found that positive content is more likely to be viral than negative, although negative content was also linked to virality in cases with exciting content, such as a high-speed car chase.


Repairing Damaged Brands… And Damaged Political Parties

Damaged brands can recover. So can damaged political parties. Companies and individuals ranging from Dell, Michael Vick, to Tylenol have made amends or reinvented themselves in such a manner that has rebuilt their trust with the public.

So how do you do it? How does a political party do it?

It’s the same prescription for both: Stop ignoring your customers’ needs and pretending that they don’t matter. Show some compassion and demonstrate that you are suffering the same maladies as your voters. Prove to them that you really care and that you are willing to make things right. Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain” was incredibly effective for a reason.

Voters, like customers, are connected. If you lose one, you lose their friends, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc.

Every candidate is an extension of a brand and is acting on behalf of their party. It only takes one stupid/careless/ignorant statement by a down-ticket candidate to wreck every other candidate with an R by their name.

Voters never forget. But they might be persuaded to forgive you if given a reason to.

Welcome change and outside help. Reach out to voters and ask them to help you improve. Identify what voters need and want from you and try to deliver. Give them something to rally around, something that is relevant to their needs.

Don’t be desperate and don’t pander. Be genuine. Voters can smell a con job. They also can smell fear. They will not jump on the squishy crisis train. Be confident about who you are and why you can make a difference in their lives. You also have to show them how it will make a difference in a language they can understand.

Constantly ask voters for advice on how you’re doing and make them part of the rebranding effort.  Create a community online and offline who can be part of the process and keep them up to date with your progress, where you are headed, and how their contributions are part of the path. If they are involved with the process they will be committed to ensuring that their efforts will be successful.


Community Visioning Surveys Can Create a Strong Vision and Action Plan For Your Community 

Community leaders need a strong vision and clear plan to improve the areas they serve. Often communities conduct visioning surveys to gather ideas that can be used to develop a shared vision for its future and to create plans to achieve that vision over time.

Regular visioning surveys allow community leaders to respond to emerging trends and issues. They also allow planners to create a long-term vision with a focus on near-term action.

While visioning surveys take a variety of forms, most try to answer several fundamental questions for a community including:

  • What do citizens value most about living in your community?

  • What are the most important issues facing your community?

  • How important are these issues?

  • How well are community leaders addressing the issues?

  • Is the community headed in the right or wrong direction?

  • What changes would residents like to see the community address?

For city leaders seeking ideas for improving their communities, these types of surveys are an excellent tool to create a dialogue with the community and to develop the future that citizens want and the plans to achieve it.


What’s The Key Issue Facing Small Business? Access To Capital 

Cash-flow issues continue to plague America’s small businesses, according to a survey of 300 members of the National Small Business Association.

Forty-three percent of small-business owners reported being shut out of funding during the past four years and nearly one-third had to reduce payroll.

We have seen this pattern in survey after survey. While access to capital has always been a challenge for small businesses, the “great” recession has made it more difficult than ever for small businesses to gain access to the capital they need.

In our work, we have found that the small business community includes 6 million small employers with 43 million employees.

Small business owners want to create jobs, innovate and grow the economy. Improving their access to capital will be a key to increasing employment growth in the U.S.


What Motivates Employees? How Do You Get The Most Out of Your Staff? 

One of the key challenges for any executive or business owner is motivating workers.

To help you get the most out from your employees, I’ve compiled a list of best practices that can help you turn your staff into motivated and loyal employees. Research has shown that these are the items valued by employees in high performing and growing organizations.

  • Communicate a clear and compelling vision of where the organization is headed, how to get there, and what it means for your people

  • Articulate a clear direction and strategy for winning, and translate it into specific goals and targets

  • Talk to your employees and discuss the direction of the organization and their part in making it happen

  • Ensure individual employees understand what is expected of them, have sufficient authority and feel accountable for delivering results 

To develop employee loyalty and enthusiasm, you need to motivate your team to perform at their very best. In survey after survey, we have found that strong scores on these items indicate highly performing organizations with enthusiastic and loyal employees.  


Customers’ Online Feedback: What to look for 

Over at Entrepreneur Online, social media consultant Mikal Belicove offers some reasons why businesses need to pay to attention to customer feedback. Belicove’s tips are based on research conducted by Bazaarvoice, a Texas-based company best known for its ratings and software reviews.

Nobody can deny the importance of monitoring customer feedback. It is absolutely critical. So what do you look for when you are reviewing online comments for your business? Here are few questions that you need to answer as you look at the feedback:

  • Where are you under-performing in the eyes of customers? 

  • What issues need to be addressed in your product, service or with your staff?

  • Do customers consistently mention a particular attribute of your business as very important?

Your goal should be to understand the aspects of your customers’ experience that drives satisfaction and ensure that you consistently deliver on those items. Take those aspects where you excel and include them in your communications with customers to reinforce your commitment to satisfying the items that they deem important. Together, these simple steps can help you build a loyal customer base.  


The Unemployment Rate Controversy & Presidential Politics

Positive unemployment numbers were all over the press Friday and markets were up across the board. Since most financial reporters simply rewrite the BLS press releases, here’s a quick explanation of the report and the controversy around the numbers.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage points in January to 8.3 percent. 

While today’s unemployment numbers are positive and show continued improvement, these numbers probably overstate the pace of recovery.

As Zero Hedge points out, there are some curious changes in the number of people not in the labor force which impacts the numbers:

A month ago, we joked when we said that for Obama to get the unemployment rate to negative by election time, all he has to do is to crush the labor force participation rate to about 55%. Looks like the good folks at the BLS heard us: it appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented record 1.2 million. No, that’s not a typo: 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month!

The Labor Force Participation Rate declined to 63.7% in January. This is the percentage of working-age persons in an economy who are employed or are unemployed and actively looking for a job. This rate is well below the typical 66% to 67% rate we experienced for most of the past 20 years.

The participation rate data is the source of the controversy.

Every January, the BLS data includes updated population estimates from the 2010 Census. The change sets a new population base and in accordance with usual practice, BLS does not revise previous household survey estimates.

So the headlines from the BLS release proclaim an unexpected improvement in the unemployment rate. However, the improvement probably exists due to the changes in the population figures and the participation rate, not a sudden surge in hiring. 

When you combine the decreases in the participation rate with modest increases in employment, you see the overall improvement in the unemployment rate that is being widely reported today.

Is the employment market improving? Yes.

Is it robust growth? Probably not.

Was this a positive report? Maybe. But it will take a few more releases to work out the statistical noise related to adjustments in the calculations to really know.

Why all the yelling and controversy?

Only one U.S. president since World War II -- Ronald Reagan -- has been re-elected with a jobless rate above 6 percent. Reagan won a second term in 1984 with 7.2 percent. Since it is an election year, you can expect more charges of manipulating the data from all sides depending on the monthly changes between now and November.

One thing is for sure, I don’t think anyone expects the rate to drop to 6% by November. If it even gets close, expect a lot of continued howls about manipulation of the data by the BLS.