Today we are inundated by surveys and public
opinion polls, and not just during election season. Buy something over the internet, you’ll
probably get an email with a link to a customer satisfaction survey. Take a class at a university,
expect a teaching evaluation survey at the end of the semester. Two things are driving
this dramatic increase in the use of survey research. First is that new technology has
made conducting surveys a lot cheaper. Second, in our new information society collecting
up to data on human behavior is increasingly important
Not surprising, this constant barrage of survey requests has created some skepticism among
the public as to the usefulness of surveys and their trustworthiness. But surveys are
not being conducted just to annoy you. Surveys, cost money, although less than in the past,
and are still time consuming to conduct; so someone thinks this information is important.
And you might be surprised how your life is greatly influenced by the results of surveys.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts monthly surveys on consumers like you, and of retail
establishments around the country. This information is used to take a comprehensive appraisal
of prices in the U.S. Besides affecting your paycheck, it may influence how much interest
you pay on your credit card, car loan, or home mortgage. The Federal Reserve uses the
information from these surveys to decide whether or not to raise interest rates.
It isn’t just your personal finances that are affected by surveys. It’s your tax money
too. Where your federal taxes go is partially determined by the data collected by the U.S.
Census. the surveys collected by the U.S. Census help
determines the amount of money cities and states receive from the federal government.
Can’t be bothered to fill out the Census form? No time? Your county and your state
may not get their fair share of over $400 billion dollars of federal funding that is
determined, in part, by the responses people give to the US Census.
Don’t care about money? What about the National Health Interview Survey? The Centers for Disease
Control Prevention has been using this survey to monitor the health of the nation since
1957. Want to know how many people don’t have health insurance? This survey will help
tell you. Not interested in Health? What about crime?
The National Crime Victimization Survey is the nation’s primary source of information
on criminal victimization. The survey covers around 90,000 households, and contains information
on nearly 160,000 people, and their experiences with crime.
We could go on all day describing how surveys directly or indirectly influence your finances,
health, safety, and even happiness. And oh yeah, there are plenty of surveys about happiness.
Want to know where the happiest place on earth is? No, it’s not Disneyland. According to
some survey research, it’s Denmark. The world happiness report published by the United
Nations uses survey data to rank 156 countries, and Denmark was the highest ranked nation
for health and happiness two years in a row. Remember, the next time someone asks you to
complete a survey, it’s not just to annoy you. They’re likely collecting important
information that may have an impact on your life.