We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

In addition, it’s getting much harder for pollsters to get people to respond to interviews. The Pew Research Center reports that it’s getting only 9 percent of the people it contacts to respond to its questions. That’s compared with 36 percent in 1997.

Interestingly, response rates are much higher in new democracies. Americans, particularly in target states, may be getting poll fatigue. When a phone rings in New Hampshire, it might well be a pollster calling.

Are those 9 percent representative of the larger population? As that percentage declines, it seems increasingly possible that the sample is unrepresentative of the much larger voting public. One thing a poll can’t tell us is the opinion of people who refuse to be polled.

Michael Barone

I increasingly resent being rung up by someone hoping to learn my opinions about this or that, and am not a bit surprised to learn that the feeling is becoming a lot more widespread. What’s in it for me? Nothing. Just a great gob of time down the drain.

If you want to know my opinions, read Samizdata.

In the particular matter of American pollsters claiming to discover how the presidential election will go, there is also the widespread belief that these people are not so much seeking to serve the voters by telling them what will be what, as to manipulate voters into voting Democrat. In which case, should you happen not to be a Democrat supporter, why would you be inclined to give them anything other than a brief suggestion that they go forth and multiply or words to that effect?

31 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • I never answer the landline, and only answer my mobile if I know the number that is ringing. Companies I do business with are welcome to contact me by email. Pollsters in the street get the same treatment as chuggers and free newspaper giver -outers -ignored (and as far as they know they are not even noticed by the be-headphoned me).
    Never has it been easier not to speak to people who are paid to hassle me about things.

  • Didn’t someone say something to the effect that attention was the ultimate finite resource?

    Maybe the future lies in polling companies paying their poll-ees. Would you be willing to be polled for payment? How much money would make you willing? But if they started paying people, would it distort the responses or the sample too much?

  • Brian Swisher

    I’m hoping that the results of November’s election will discredit the pollsters for good and all…

    Ah, who am I kidding. They’ll just go on the same, regardless…

  • RRS

    If you want to know my opinions, read Samzidata.

    Saith Brian

    That is, to the extent he cares to share, for which we are grateful.

    These “polling” issues were recently an item in the WSJ, wherein a comment was made about the exit polls being reported in the 2004 election. They were abysmally off, and the conclusion offered was “they lied to us.” Could be they just polled an unbalanced sample of those willing to answer.

    It is being revealed that many of the current polling sampling methods are “slanted” by the use of factors derived from measures of participation in the 2008 election.

    But at least the polls are keeping PdeH happy ????

  • Douglas

    Learning how to say “no” forcefully over the phone, without being a jerk is a special talent, that should be taught in school.

  • Richard Thomas

    I think there also may be an element of a move from naivety to informed cynicism in the population. Indeed, the pollsters are not there to be benefit the electorate, they are there to make a buck, very many bucks and they expect people to donate their time for free in that pursuit.

  • Richard Thomas

    Douglas, I find the hang-up button to be an effective alternative. Especially since many of these people regard “No” to mean “Please tell me more about your fascinating offer/poll/beg”

    (Additionally, my above post has already been covered by previous posters but when I wrote it two hours ago, SD was being pissy about accepting posts)

  • Regional

    Go and hve a romantic interlude is one I’ve never been able to use since not following the script and they stopped ringing me.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Click! is both sufficient and succinct.

  • veryretired

    Never been polled, never wanted to be polled, never paid any attention to polls for any important issue.

    My general opinion is that only stupidity follows in any sentence that begins “Polls show…”

    If and when I decide to vote a certain way in an election or referendum, it’s because of my own evaluation of the situation, and I couldn’t care less about some amorphous public opinion supposedly shown in a poll.

    The various flaws in most polls themselves are substantial, and only serve to further discredit the whole business.

    I’ve always thought of polls as a return to that nervous adolescent phase in which the ordinary teen is desperate to be part of the in-crowd, and the worst thing that can happen is to be considered out of step.

    It was hysterically funny during college to observe all the supposedly rebellious youths who made it a point to look and dress and talk exactly alike.

    In November, we will see how valid all these allegedly “scientific” polls really are.

  • But at least the polls are keeping PdeH happy?

    I do not think ‘happy’ is quite the right term.

    One can correctly predict a flood or earthquake or similar calamity and thus make suggestions about dealing with the aftermath without being ‘happy’ about being correct 🙂

  • Alisa

    Indeed. More and more often I just hate being correct.

  • RAB

    Normally speaking when Cold Called for my opinions, I usually say… Sorry I don’t do Polls.

    But if I’m a particularly bad mood I answer all their questions the complete opposite to my actual opinions. So the “They lied to us” is probably down to me.

  • Razorbacker

    Personally, if I don’t simply hang up when the robot begins it’s spiel, I respond as a rabid Democrat would. Even though, as of June 28, 2012 it is my firm intent never to vote for any Democrat running for any office at any level anywhere that I may be able to vote.

    Not that I ever voted for that many of them before June 28.

  • Laird

    The problem with internet polls, as everyone knows, is self-selection bias. The same thing is beginning to happen with old-fashioned telephone polls. Many people are burned out on polls in general, and either for that reason or because of a (rational) distrust of “push-polls” are simply declining to answer them. So we’re reaching the point where the only people who respond are those with an agenda, and telephone polls are becoming as subject to self-selection bias as are internet polls. Their accuracy and utility are rapidly declining.

  • Julie near Chicago

    wh00ps has stolen my strategy! ;>)

    That’s why the Great Frog gave us answering machines…with availability of call screening, for those times when one Really Cares.

    My message even says, “We do not respond to surveys or solicitations.” But usually the computer who’s talking to my machine’s computer barges right on ahead. (I believe that actually, computers are sort of witless. *g*)

  • Marshall

    If you feel like answering the phone, and a pollster is on the other end, ask them “What’s in it for me?”

    Insist on cash up front.

    You know they’re selling their results; you should be paid for your answers.

    This gets them off the phone fairly quickly.

    Or, you can just hang up.

  • If I get a call from a human pollster, I’ll answer the questions, just to see how they’ll respond when I say I’m voting for Gary Johnson. 🙂

    I actually got a call from a pollster back in the spring when I was house-sitting for my parents, and the poor young lady asking the questions said, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you’re the second person who’s told me they’re voting for Johnson.” She realized the poll was badly written, and I felt bad for her since it wasn’t her fault.

  • Fred Z

    I’m with RAB. I lie, but not the opposite of my real opinions. I prefer random answers.

    I do the same for web-sites with intrusive questions.

  • Dishman

    I’ll answer pollsters most of the time. However, I’ll calculate what set of answers will best serve my interests. It’s my time, if they’re going to attempt to secure it without compensation, I’ll just casually draw the compensation myself.

  • I signed up to the YouGov panel expecting that I would get paid for expressing my opinion in a forum that mattered. I gave it up when I realised that even if I concentrated very hard and gave it plenty of my time it was physically impossible to get to the end of the poll without being driven into an answer that supported the pollsters existing view, which I found could be easily inferred from the questions.

    As to Brian’s point about participation dropping and the availability of Samizdata if the authentic Brian Micklethwait is really desired: I wonder if in the near future (already?) a better sample could be gathered by simpling reading the whole of Twitter and Facebook? I have heard Twitter publish a “firehose” of every public tweet for companies to do exactly that kind of thing.

  • I remain polite. A friend of mine had that sort of job once because she was desperate for money. I try to remember that the person making the call probably is just trying to scratch a living.

    The biggest turn off for me is the sheer number of calls. My impression is that here in the UK they are not usually political polls, not even push-polls, but there are vast numbers of people claiming to carry out “surveys” who are actually trying to sell you something. I do not like being lied to. I like even less having my name added to a list of prospects who have done surveys in the past and prompting a tsunami of further calls.

    Not everyone is in a position to simply not take calls from numbers they don’t recognise.

    We have had around a hundred (literally) calls from companies wanting me to use their services to pursue a claim for mis-selling of payment protection insurance. This despite having twice notified the Telephone Preference Service that we did not want these calls.

    Here’s a marketing opportunity for someone – Telephones with in built anti-spam software. Only, please, market it responsibly.

  • I’m amazed my last got through the smitebot! Lazy smitebot, what are you doing letting through the words “payment protection insurance”?

  • phwest

    I find most polls irritating because they are set up as binary choices. The last phone poll I took I answered everything undecided/no opinion, not because I was but because they didn’t give me the opinion “neither”.

  • CaptDMO

    Didn’t someone say something to the effect that attention was the ultimate finite resource?

    Yep, but probbably NOT the same person who said something about “bread and circuses”

    Maybe the future lies in polling companies paying their poll-ees. Would you be willing to be polled for payment? How much money would make you willing? But if they started paying people, would it distort the responses or the sample too much?

    Good point.
    SEE: JurnoList, Members- US/Mex Legislature, UK/Ca Parliment, et al.

    On the other hand, sometimes you can just GIVE folks money, and they don’t behave as promised, AT ALL.
    SEE: “For the children…”, Pell Grant, Temporary assistance, Mid East.

  • Steve D

    You can’t just bust into someone’s home and start asking questions. That’s unethical.

  • Steve D

    You can’t just bust into someone’s home and start asking questions. That’s unethical.

  • You don’t know who’s on the other end of the phone line (or on the other end of the computer program), but they probably have an agenda. And it’s quite possible my name will end up on a List anyhow. I’d rather it be a list of people-who-hang-up, because these days it is hazardous to let your opinions be known. Always has been; but the use of computers makes the whole sorry mess more efficient, for too many values of ‘efficient’.

  • Alisa

    Natalie: I myself did this for a brief period a very long time ago – precisely as you put it: to scratch a living. So like you, I remain polite (albeit very brief and determined), and I appreciate others who do the same.

  • Chris

    Other factors are that people might be willing to answer some questions, but not too many. I was called once on a poll, and I asked how long it would take. I was told two minutes, but by minute 5 I asked how many were left (which they couldn’t answer because presumably certain answers would prompt additional questions), and I just hung up.

    Another thing is that I was not happy with the answers I could select for some of the poll questions for another poll, and I came to the conclusion that this poll was designed to change my answer as opposed to giving good data.

    Relatedly, some of the poll questions can’t truly be answered. If I am asked to evaluate something on a 1-10 scale, what do the numbers really mean? It’s like those customer service polls that ask you to evaluate what you got. To me, a midrange “5” indicates an acceptable level of service, yet I am constantly being told that if I got what I wanted, to please give them a 10. These are the type of issues that makes modern polls terrible.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Aren’t we in enough trouble without encouraging democrazies to go forth and multiply!!!? that’s totally irresponsible advice! You could be the cause of the increase in the democratic vote!!! Shame!
    You should only curse RESPONSIBLY!!!
    (For my part, I use the name of the suburb of Epping in vain, ever since I came across it- that *Epping* highway, the *Epping* mailman, etc.)