We have all gotten phone calls at dinnertime, shanghaied at the mall or answered a few questions online, all in the name of public opinion. In fact, it seems everywhere we turn there is a new survey, poll or focus group available to participate in. Surveys are used in every imaginable way, from customer service satisfaction, quality control, employee satisfaction, politics and entertainment. These surveys, focus groups or polls are all used to demonstrate a trend in the general public s thoughts and behaviors. The goal is, with a large enough sample of people, surveyors can calculate and predict how the public will react.
Surveyors and analyzers base all their predictions on the average. Surveys that are used quantitatively (calculated mathematically) can be placed into a mathematical statistics calculator and determine how many people will do a certain thing. Without getting into the practical details of statistics, know that most survey questions are quantitative and can be calculated mathematically.
These are some of the places and ways surveys are used in everyday life.
Places of Employment
Employers will often send out surveys to employees to gain anonymous insight to their thoughts and feelings about the company. Employers can then adjust rules, policies and procedures accordingly. Frequently, simple surveys are used in conjunction with customer service satisfaction. Restaurants or hotels will ask guests to fill out a small form inquiring about the service provided, and what you did and didn t like about your visit.
All major companies like Kraft, Kellogg, Dove, etc. use focus groups and surveys to determine consumer trends. Focus groups and surveys go hand and hand. Surveyors ask questions about what kind of products you buy and how much you are willing to spend. This gives companies an idea about where their target market is and how much the average person is willing to spend on products. All new products put on the market go through some kind of consumer focus group.
No movie or television show is released before it goes through a focus group. These are called screenings. In a screening production, studios show a focus group a new movie or TV show then ask them questions about what they thought of these programs. Many studios will take the public s opinion into account and adjust a program accordingly depending on the audience they are trying to reach. If the studio is screening a children s show, and the focus group of parents say they would not let their children watch that program, it s safe to assume the show will not go on the air without major rewrites.
In these screenings, especially television screenings, the focus group will fill out a survey about the show and about what kind of consumer products they would buy. With these surveys, the advertising department can deduce what kind of products the people that like the show would buy, then they will establish affiliations with these products.
Political surveys become more prevalent in election years. Pollsters try to predict the outcome of political races by conducting surveys or polls. They will often target people in specific groups like party affiliations, minorities or income levels to determine which candidate will win.
Pollsters feel if they get a large enough sample of people, then they can accurately predict the outcome. Although there are very scientific procedures associated with calculating the polls, it is not a fail-safe science. Surveys are only as good as the people taking them. If surveyors do not get a representative sample of their target market, the predicted trends may be misleading.
So What s the Point?
Surveys are a complicated way to create simple answers. The general public doesn t want to know how the evening news acquired the information they just want to know the numbers about presidential approval ratings, or what percentage of high income families go to McDonalds. Surveys are a complicated, behind the scenes process that affect our everyday lives, we just don t realize it.