Survey Research – We have met the enemy and he is us


New York – Last week, KL Communications, a full-service market research firm specialized in building and maintaining online panels, distributed a newsletter including an interesting article by the firm’s president, Kevin Lonnie, titled Going Green – The Sustainability of Participant Engagement. The article questions the excessive attention placed today to “data quality” in survey research and reframes the discussion within the terms of “respondent cooperation.”

Integrity’s recent study on the usage of survey research by financial institutions revealed that a significant percentage of buy-side and sell-side firms are incorporating surveys as part of their investment mosaic. Mr. Lonnie’s reflections are, therefore, of interest to survey providers servicing these institutions as well as to the end users of this type of research.

“Data quality” has been a major concern in the space of survey research. Techniques to prevent and/or identify flawed responses and invalid data abound: IP address validation, cross-referenced questions, and the collection of verifiable information are just some of the “traps” that survey researchers implement in order to guarantee the quality of the data collected.

Mr. Lonnie reflects: “If respondent cooperation levels were anywhere near what they were just twenty years ago, we wouldn’t be discussing data quality.”

“…It wasn’t easy… we had to keep hammering at it for close to half a century, but the public finally got tired of our ‘just a few moments more’ pretext and relatively lame incentives, and turned their backs on us. After all, it’s not like the respondent is some petulant child who simply refuses to cooperate.”

The key to improving data quality, the article argues, is in strengthening the relationship between the public and the researcher – not necessarily on implementing “traps” to expose fraudulent respondents. Can the relationship between public-researcher be restored at a time when respondents (across most demographics, geographies, and industry sectors), are disenchanted and tired? Mr. Lonnie proposes some solutions such as watching survey lengths and including a survey satisfaction section.

Survey end-users and research providers have a stake in restoring this broken relationship. Furthermore, they have the responsibility of designing and implementing studies that re-build – not keep hammering – the public-researcher relationship. This will ultimately bring on the desired high quality in survey data.


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