A very important survey

The other day, I got a call. Normally, when I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer the phone. However, for various reasons, these days I answer every call.

It went something like this:

Me: “Emilio here.”

Caller: “Hello, is this Emilio?”

Me: “Yes. That’s why I said ‘Emilio here’ when I answered.”

Caller: “Hi. My name is (something I didn’t catch) calling on behalf of (survey company whose name I also didn’t pay attention to) with a very important survey.”

Me: “Sorry; I don’t do surveys.”

Caller: “Sir, this is a very important national survey about national issues. Your participation is crucial.”

Me: “Crucial to whom?”

Caller: “Excuse me?”

Me: “Crucial to whom? Who commissioned the survey?”

Caller: “I’m sorry, we can’t disclose that information.”

Me: “That’s OK, I’m not interested anyway.”

Caller: “Sir, please understand, this is a very important survey, and you were scientifically chosen based on your phone number to represent your area.”

Me: “My phone number has a Michigan Area code, and I reside in Hawaii. Which area am I representing?”

Caller: “I don’t know, but you were scientifically chosen for this survey.”

Me: “What if I would have died yesterday? What would you have done?”

Caller: “Excuse me?”

Me: “I was scientifically chosen for this important survey, and my participation is crucial?”

Caller: “Yes.”

Me: “What if I would have died yesterday? What would you have done?”

Caller: “It’s based on the phone number, so it’s for whoever answers.”

Me: “So, you don’t care if it’s actually me; it’s whoever answers this number. Since it’s not my opinion you’re interested in, it seems you could find an alternate, just like if I’d died yesterday. I’m not interested in taking the survey. Please choose the next name on the list instead.”

Caller: “Sir, please, it’s important you participate. Why would you not provide your opinion on these very important issues?”

Me: “For one, the questions are usually worded to promote a particular view. For another, few things have simple answers. Also, I’m not interested in taking the survey.”

Caller: “The answers allow for varied opinions, and you can skip any answers that you don’t feel comfortable answering.”

Me: “That seems strange.”

Caller: “What seems strange?”

Me: “The fact that my input is crucial, but I can skip answering questions. It sounds as if I’m not needed at all. Sort of like I could tell you I want to skip all the questions, and we’re done with the survey.”

Caller: “Won’t you please participate?”

Me: “I tell you what I will do. We can start the survey. If we hit any options that don’t match my opinion, we stop.”

Caller: “OK, that’s fine. First, let me ask you a few background questions.”

Me: “What kind of background questions? You said I was scientifically chosen. Don’t you guys already know stuff about me? It sounds like this is just a random call.”

Caller: “We have to verify general information.”

*** brief questions about age, marital status, and job status, nothing involving actual numbers and stuff ***

Caller: “First question: Healthcare is a basic human right; do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree?”

Me: “How do you define healthcare?”

Caller: “That’s not in the question; Healthcare is a basic human right; do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree?”

Me: “I can’t answer that question.”

Caller: “So you pass on the question?”

Me: “Sure, but if the questions are all like that, we can stop right now.”

Caller: “Second Question: President Trump has stated that he will build a wall and pass laws to slow or stop illegal immigration; how confident are you that he can accomplish what he said? Very confident, somewhat confident, somewhat doubtful, strongly doubtful?”

Me: “That’s a two-part question. Plus, you don’t have a neutral option.”

Caller: “It’s a single question; are you very confident, somewhat confident, somewhat doubtful, strongly doubtful he can achieve his objectives?”

Me: “I’m pretty sure that’s a two-part question; one part is about building the wall, the other part is about passing laws. There’s also an implied third question as to whether either or both of those measures would be effective or not.”

Caller: “It’s a straightforward question: how confident are you that he can accomplish what he said? Very confident, somewhat confident, somewhat doubtful, strongly doubtful?”

Me: “Well, I think we’ve reached an impasse. You can’t rephrase the question, and I can’t answer it as it’s being asked. I thank you for your patience and wish you a great day. Goodbye.”

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And that, dear readers, is why I’ve stopped participating in phone surveys. It’s also why — when I hear results of various surveys — I’m skeptical. Even when conducted by reputable research houses, the questions themselves are often leading and rarely capture the nuances of important issues.

Few things can be slotted into black-and-white opinions, and you should be skeptical when someone claims a large percentage of persons are either for or against something.

For one, you don’t know what they were asked, and for another, you have no idea who answered the questions, the sample size, how informed they were, their level of education, nor any other number of what could be important attributes affecting their answers.

But, ultimately, ask me how important it is that a certain percentage of people believe something or other.

It’s not important at all. Never has been, never will be.

Think about it; do you care what your neighbor thinks about issues that concern your life, your welfare, and the welfare of your family and friends?  

Here’s my advice; FIRST learn as much as you can about everything that is of importance to you and formulate an opinion based on what you learned.

THEN, check with someone who has a different opinion and listen to them.

THEN, decide if their argument and reasoning are better than your arguments and reasoning. Note: this is the hard part because it requires you be honest with yourself. Most people are selfish and rationalize things in their favor.

THEN, continue learning, listening, and constantly checking the validity of your opinions and beliefs.

. . . I know very few people who follow that advice and I’m therefore not surprised to look around and conclude we’re screwed. But, I don’t feel bad about it; any country willing to be governed by “surveys says” deserves to go down in flames and make room for someone more capable to take over.   

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