Survey Practices that AAPOR Condemns
AAPOR joins the Research Industry Coalition
and the National Council on Public Polls in condemning certain
misleading practices sometimes performed in the name of research. In no
case are the following practices deemed legitimate or acceptable
elements of professionally conducted research:
- Requiring a monetary payment or soliciting monetary contributions
from members of the public as part of a research process.
This set of practices amounts to fund raising under the guise of
research. It takes unfair advantage of the cooperative attitude that a
majority of the public manifests when asked to take part in a legitimate
information gathering process. In some cases, unwary members of the
public are enticed to contribute money as a condition of gaining some
future "benefit" from their participation.
- Offering products or services for sale, or using participant
contacts as a means of generating sales leads.
A common practice is to gain entry or acceptance in order to make a
sales pitch by initially defining the contact as being made for
"research" purposes. This trades on the prestige of science, and it
exploits the willingness of the public to reveal information about
themselves in the public interest. In some cases, questions establish
respondents' susceptibility to sales pressure or their interest in some
product or service. Follow-up contacts are then made to those so
identified, all under the guise of "research."
- Revealing the identity of individual respondents to a survey or
participants in a research process without their permission.
It is normal research practice to pledge anonymity or confidentiality to
the public in order to secure their cooperation and frankness in
responding to questions. Revealing the identity of individuals, for
whatever purpose, is a violation of that pledge unless a respondent's
prior informed consent has been obtained.
- Representing the results of a 900-number or other type of
self-selected "poll" as if they were the outcome of legitimate
900-number and other types of write-in, call-in, and interactive polls
have become increasingly common. These "polls" report the opinions of
only those people who called in, and not those of the general public.
AAPOR believes that any publicizing or promotion of such activities not
only damages legitimate market and survey research, but can be very
misleading when used to influence public policy or simply to disseminate
information about the general public.
- Conducting a so-called "push poll," a telemarketing technique in
which telephone calls are used to canvass potential voters, feeding them
false or misleading "information" about a candidate under the pretense
of taking a poll to see how this "information" affects voter
So-called "push polls" are not polls at all. They are a form of
political telemarketing whose intent is not to measure public opinion
but to manipulate – "push" – voters away from
one candidate and toward the opposing candidate. Such polls defame
selected candidates by spreading false or misleading information about
them. The intent is to disseminate campaign propaganda under the guise
of conducting a legitimate public opinion poll. Read
AAPOR's recent statement on "push" polls.
As members of AAPOR, a professional organization which relies on
public cooperation to gather information that is useful in formulating
public policy as well as in understanding the public's preferences for
products and services, we condemn these practices in the strongest