In a Time of Upheaval, Does Research Still Work?

survey research

If you can’t go to the mall, can you do surveys? It’s a good question. With so many of our regular rules of social conduct being upended, it’s important to consider what effect the Coronavirus crisis is having on survey research. Will people stop wanting to do surveys? Will the people who do the surveys be weird? Has our ability to get representative feedback from citizens and consumers changed forever?

People keep responding, consistently

We constantly monitor the representativeness and reliability of our market communities in the US, UK and Canada. What we find is that they are boringly reliable. And we just finished a test of 28,000 people from 28 panels in 14 countries, seeking out those panels we can certify as reliable and representative. We take sample quality seriously. That’s why we’ve been monitoring our market communities as the Coronavirus crisis unfolds.

Our research shows that the response rate to surveys has held steady, and perhaps even increased a little. This is consistent with what other sample providers are reporting. Secondly, our tracking of our quality measures confirms that the people who are responding are still as representative as before. The answer to basic questions about owning a car and a preference of sweet vs sour remain the same. In fact, the unchanging nature of people’s answers to these items is boring—in a good way.


Because we can, should we?

It’s one thing to be able to do something, like conduct a survey. But it’s another thing to question whether it is appropriate or not.

In a time of crisis and isolation, people want to make their voices heard. But you must make suitable inquiries.

Here are two questions you should ask yourself, before committing to doing research:

  • Is it appropriate? Could the research question cause offense or be lacking emotional intelligence?
  • Is it the right time? Is the subject or type of question you are asking going to be strongly influenced by how people are currently feeling or uncontrollable events e.g. intention to travel, or make a big purchase?

If the time isn’t right, or the question doesn’t feel appropriate, don’t even consider doing research. But if the answer is yes, know that people are still eager to have their voice heard; to make their contribution to the common good.

While the coronavirus is changing how we work, play and communicate, it does not alter the basic human desire to learn from each other, and provide our opinion on things that matter.


Keep questioning

In a time of upheaval, does research still work? In a word: yes. But, now more than ever, the questions we ask must be thoughtful, sensitive and comprehending of the changing times in which we live.

We’ll continue to monitor who responds and how and will provide updates if conditions change. In the meantime; keep questioning.

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