Survey Research Ridiculed

Survey research is the only method of investigation that’s ridiculed.  A recent example is an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, titled, “Survey mania“.  The ridicule is also evident In one of my favorite cartoons.  A man at a bar says to the man next to him: “What I drink and what I tell the pollsters I drink are two different things”.  (For a book of cartoons lampooning the asking method see, Joan Altabe and Steve Schroer, Pollster, 1stBooks, 2003.)

The reasons non-asking methods, such as observation and experiments, are not mocked, not made fun of, is because (1) they produce reliable information and (2) it’s well known they do.  Survey research, on the other hand, generates unreliable information; that is answers that may, or may not, be correct.  It’s not that every answer to every question is incorrect, but when all you have are answers it’s impossible to determine which, if any, are correct or incorrect.  Because survey researchers/askers only have answers to questions, all they have is unreliable information.

Wide-spread ridicule of survey research indicates a general awareness of the fatal flaw of survey research, but asking continues, in part, because there’s unfamiliarity with non-asking methods and how to use them to investigate objective and subjective phenomena.  In my book, The Problem with Survey Research, I present extensive evidence and analysis (and ridicule) that demolishes survey research as a method for finding out what’s really going on and, in Part Six, I discuss non-asking procedures and present examples of their use.

About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
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