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Entries in New York Times (4)


The Sample Matters, Not Just the Tool

The Washington Post gave readers an informative glimpse into the debate raging among research professionals over the use of "opt-in Internet survey data," or what we call panel research.

Using databases, as opposed to randomly selected samples, is not new or even exceptional. Organizations that have collected email addresses from customers, patients and stakeholders use panel research on a routine basis to measure everything from customer satisfaction to reactions to advertising to introductions of new products and services.

The qualms over panel research center on its application to public-opinion polling. Traditional researchers believe telephone surveys remain the gold standard and web-based surveys remain untested. Like The Washington Post and New York Times, we respectfully disagree.

The national newspapers use YouGov polling, which relies on representative panels drawn from huge databases. Participants opt in to the panel through an online survey. But the pollsters in charge manage the panel's profile to match the "public" being measured, whether it is the national electorate or likely voters in an Ohio congressional district.

We conduct online research using panels for both market and public-opinion research. Ensuring a representative sample of participants is important whether you are relying on a proprietary database or drawing from databases that you lease. 

Soliciting panel participants from leased databases through email is not all that different than drawing a random sample of phone numbers to call on the telephone. Both generally work on the principle of probability. The skill and integrity of polling comes from making sure wherever your sample comes from, it accurately reflects the constituency you are trying to poll

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Moving Away from Stock Stereotypes

A measure of how we see ourselves can be found in the images we use to depict ourselves. and Getty Images have teamed up to change how we view woman in stock photography.

Instead of women with forced smiles and contorted postures, new stock photos show women in more realistic, contemporary settings  — multitasking, flipping through a catalogue and lifting weights. The idea is to break through visual stereotypes.

Sheryl Sandberg, author of "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," told the New York Times, "When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into stereotypes that we're trying to overcome, and you can't be what you can't see."

Getty's part of the partnership is led by Pam Grossman, the stock photography company's director of research. Part of her job is to track demographics and visual trends. She has helped create a new library consisting of 2,500 stock photos of women and girls, a quarter of which are new to Getty's collection. While Getty has added images in lockstep with societal transitions, this is the first time it assembled a collection in collaboration with a non-profit.

Advertising agencies, PR firms and web designers go to stock photography libraries to search for the perfect image. Now Getty will offer a wider, more diverse range of images showing women and girls in less clichéd settings. The library includes women in roles such as surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters.

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Reviving the American Dream

An essential part of the American ethos is having the next generation prosper more than its predecessor. But for many Americans, especially those in the lower rungs of the economy, the future may hold a dimmer prospect.

The Economic Mobility Project, a product of The Pew Charitable Trusts, warns that growing income inequality in America threatens the age-old dream of each generation climbing the economic ladder.

It already is relatively uncommon in America to move from the lower class to the middle class, according to Pew researchers, let alone to the upper class. While two-thirds of Americans earn more than their parents after adjusting for inflation, the gain is fairly small and reflects general economic growth in the country more than a leapfrog to a bigger pond.

Erin Currier, director of the Economic Mobility Project, told NPR that data doesn't support the widely accepted notion that America is the world's land of opportunity. "This notion that we have about ourselves, as America being somehow exceptional in terms of our opportunity, is not accurate," Currier says. "The data show that the United States actually has less relative mobility than Western European and Canada."

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Online Research Works If Done Right

When conducted correctly, online research can accurately collect opinions among voters, the general population and consumers.

Recently, New York Times reporter Nate Silver took to task an online voter survey conducted in South Carolina. Before Citing a Poll, Read the Fine Print.

Yes, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is an appropriate cautionary note for any research. But what factors should decision-makers look for to determine if an online survey is valid or not.

CFM has found the following are key elements to conducting successful and accurate online studies.

  • Cast a wide net for emails. For general population surveys we collect emails addresses from a variety of valid sources, such as e-billing, e-newsletters, website registrations and existing online panels. Using multiple sources for email addresses makes the final email list representative of the community.
  • Diversify sources. If appropriate, use several online panels for community surveys. Each panel has its strengths and weaknesses. Using several sources helps avoid potential biases inherent in all commercial panels.

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