Sunday, April 26, 2009

Telephone Pollsters

There's been a lot of talk recently about Zata3's poll about the Jackson Mayoral race. Some say it's valuable and accurate, some say it's not, but what nobody's talking about is how really annoying telephone polls are.

I find it pretty dehumanizing for anyone to try and reduce my opinion to a point on a graph and damned annoying that anyone would call me saying they want my opinion, when they really don't. They want to know where I fall on their pre-determined graph, not what I think.

Many of these companies conduct their polls without human operators, but those who actually do employ live human beings give them a script that reduces them to a mechanical operand so they might as well be a computer.

If a computer-controlled, recorded pollster calls, I just hang up. I refuse to have a telephone conversation with a non-biological entity saying it wants my opinion when it's incapable of even understanding what human beings are.

If I'm lucky enough to get a human operator, I generally find it terribly unfair that they want me to give them information, but they won't give me any, so I turn the tables on them.

First I ask who they work for. I think they may actually be required to answer that question. It's a matter of ethics really.

Next I'll ask who their client is. The poll company isn't calling for their own sake, they make money collecting opinions for other people. Most of the time, they won't tell me who their client is.

If someone's calling to get information, "who wants to know?" is a fairly logical response, but usually the pollster doesn't want us to know who's probing our psyche so they won't say. I find it terribly unethical for someone to know who I am and try to gather information from me, but remain unwilling to say who they represent. If they refuse to answer, then I usually hang up.

Most pollster calls never get past the second question. If they do, then I hit them with a third question and so far nobody has ever gotten past that. "And what is your name?" I ask.

It's a reasonable question. They have my name, my telephone number, and god-knows what other information about me, but you'd be surprised how many don't want me to know their name. If they do give me a first name, then I insist on knowing their last name.

I've never actually had one give me their last name. One went so far to say it was a matter of security. "Matter of security?" They call my house, but I'm unable to find out who they are as a matter of security? What am I going to do? Call them at their house just like they've called me at mine?

I suppose there is some useful purpose for opinion polls, but when it comes to politics, I prefer the actual ballot itself, which is the only opinion poll that really matters.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

My mom always witnesses to them. Sometimes they won't talk to her, but she's usually able to get their names.