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Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Enjoying this app? Would you recommend us to a friend? In your own words, how satisfied are you with our service? Data gatherers subject consumers, employees and voters to a constant barrage of questions. This suggests it is easy to carry out surveys.
But continuous quizzing causes fatigue. Privacy concerns make people cautious about answering detailed, personal questions. Response rates have plummeted in some cases.
The problem is acute for government statisticians. The response rate to the UK’s labour force survey has dropped from 38.5 per cent pre-pandemic to 15 per cent. Britain’s Office for National Statistics had to skip its usual publication of the jobs data in October.
It now plans to pay more to increase participation rates. It already shells out an unconditional £10 to individuals selected to take part and a further £10 on completion. The upfront payment is likely to rise. Behavioural psychologists say gifts with no strings attached can provide a powerful lever. They create a sense of obligation.
Payments for participating in online research will remain a problem. Some platforms put people through an unpaid screening process to establish whether they are suitable for a study. That might encourage dishonesty if individuals can work out the eligibility criteria.
Aim-listed pollster YouGov says it avoids such pitfalls in recruiting its 24mn panel members. They get paid in points for surveys which can be converted into gift cards. The provision for the accrued value of these incentives stood at £17.8mn in July. That compares with its £44mn operating profits for the latest year.
It has been growing rapidly, though, as with its peers, some of the air has come out of its valuation. YouGov’s forward price to earnings valuation has fallen by a half over three years to 23 times. In March US private equity group Silver Lake agreed to buy US poll-related software maker Qualtrics for $12.5bn at under 10 times trailing annual revenue, about half the valuation of its 2021 initial public offering.
Online surveys were first launched around the turn of the millennium. At first, they made little inroads into an industry dominated by telephone polling.
The tables are now turning. In 2022, more than half of US public pollsters used methods different from those deployed six years earlier, says Pew Research. The UK’s ONS is part of this trend. It plans to roll out a digital-first version of its labour force survey in the spring.
The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. Do constant demands for feedback from service providers get just a bit annoying after a while? Please participate in our unstructured and unremunerated online survey by telling us what you think in the comments section below.