walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Oberservations on survey design and responses

I'm a big fan of Nate Silver (altho I've been so cranky about the lead up to this election that I've been ignoring the blog lately). He spends some time talking about survey design, cell phones, response rates and blah blah bleeping blah.

I just got a phone call on my cell phone. It was from the CDC, wanting me to answer survey questions about the flu. They had selected my phone number randomly from a list of cell phone numbers from, IIRC, "Bell Telephone customers" (I use Verizon, fwiw). They started out by saying if I was driving, to let them know immediately. I asked how long it would take to complete the survey; they said if no children in the household, about 10 minutes. I said I had two children. They said if children in the household, 15 to 20 minutes.

20 minutes is a lot of my time. Specifically, it is _all_ of my time before A. is guaranteed to be back, and honestly, she is likely to return within that time frame and want my attention. They were willing to call me back at a better time, but 20 minutes is a lot of my time any time in the next week for reasons I'm not going to go into in a public post. I'd be willing to spend the 20 minutes if they were willing to have the conversation in a little over a week -- things open up again then. But that was too long for them, so that was the end of that.

Nate Silver lists a _ton_ of reasons (based on survey data on how people spend their day) why certain fractions of the population are unreachable by landline. But it occurs to me that a well designed survey generally speaking takes a decent amount of time to get through. And 20 minutes on a cell phone is a _long_ time. Especially if, as I have, you've gone to a fantastic amount of trouble to get (6 years ago) and keep a calling plan which only has 100 minutes of anytime talk per month.

But the whole 20 minutes on a cell phone isn't why I said no. I said no because time is the thing I value more than any_thing_ else in the world (people are still more important). And 20 minutes of it answering questions I don't get to negotiate or discuss or add to? Not gonna happen.

We really need to figure out a way to do this via e-mail. Say, you call me, I agree to do the survey, but I don't have to do it on the phone -- I give you my e-mail and you send it to me or something.
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