The reliability of surveys is doubted because of the belief that they are based on a few sample collections, which is then generalised
Vinod Nair –
Muscat, April 14 –
Every other day, there is a survey-based report that rank countries or cities be it for their economic or political power, quality of life and public facilities among others. Even the strength and power of the passports are frequently measured, leaving one to feel proud or embarrassed of the country of his birth or work. Then there are surveys ranking corporates and brands.
The reliability of surveys is doubted because of the belief that they are based on a few sample collections, which is then generalised.
“Surveys focus on the feel good factor as they cautiously try to take the middle past to avoid criticisms or accused being biased. This is what I feel,” said Thomas Mark who has been doing surveys since college days. “I don’t know about the surveys by institutions like the UN or World Bank, but I am sure there must be some fixing of the results.”
A top executive of a marketing research company based in Dubai has this to say. “People need to differentiate the surveys. “There are private surveys or polls conducted by agencies for companies or governments to gauge public opinion on products and services, which will help them to make adjustments. There are internal surveys ordered by organisations, which get leaked to the public. You have reports based on surveys, data research and polls done by global public health institutions like WHO, UN, Unicef and World Bank among others.”
He added, “Surveys are based on questionnaires or random polls on assumptions that people will be honest with their replies. Again if the sample is large and diverse, it will be more reliable.”
According to an expert, the margin of error will be generally around two to 2.5 per cent irrespective whether the sample size is 1,000 or 100,000 or more respondents. So accuracy depends entirely on the sample size in relation to the population or market.
There are reviews about a product or place. “These are purely about people sharing personal experiences, which may be not same to two different individuals. So we must have this mind before drawing conclusions,” the executive said.
Take the recent UN report for Happiness, in which, of course, Oman was not included for technical reasons, and the toppers were Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland.
But it had some interesting revelations. Work is a major factor as unemployment causes a fall in happiness, and even for those in work the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness.
Report says people in China are no happier than they were 25 years ago though we all know that the country has been one of the fastest growing economies over in the past two decades. Take opinion polls based on presidential elections in the US last year, it was obvious that people either hid their preferences or the volunteers got carried away with general perceptions.