Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Center for Opinion Research

    • Patricia E. Harris Center for Business, Government & Public Policy
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Survey FAQs

How did you get my phone number?
Most of our studies are telephone surveys, and for these a computer program randomly generates the phone numbers that are called. We ask for all the possible phone numbers in a certain geographic area, and the program creates numbers using the existing three-digit exchanges. This means that we do not know the addresses of the households that we reach, or the names of the residents. We use this method-called random digit dialing-to reach as many households as possible, including those that may have unlisted phone numbers, so that our surveys will reflect the views of a wide range of people. Once the survey is completed, we do not keep your phone number in our database. Also, your answers remain completely confidential.

How did you get my address?
You may have received a postcard or mailing from us addressed to "resident." This is because, for some surveys, a random sample of households in the area to be surveyed is created using U.S. Postal Service delivery data. This is called address-based sampling, and provides a way of reaching residents whether they have a landline telephone or not. Using this method, known household addresses are matched to telephone numbers where possible, and households with a matched telephone number are mailed a postcard informing them that an interviewer will be calling. Households without a matching telephone number are sent a packet of materials, sometimes including a small monetary incentive, asking them to contact us to participate in the survey. As with our telephone surveys, your address and other information will not be kept in our database once the survey is complete, and your answers will remain confidential.

How did you get my name?
If we have asked for you by name, then you are a customer, employee, patient, or member of an organization that has commissioned a survey and provided us with a list of people to contact. We have either randomly selected possible respondents from this list, or are attempting to reach everyone, depending on the survey. For example, each year the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education provides us with the names and telephone numbers of all recent graduates for a survey asking about their college experiences. As with all our surveys, any information you give us for this kind of "named" study remains completely confidential.

But I'm on the Do Not Call List! How come you called me anyway?
The 2003 federal law that created the Do Not Call Registry made it illegal for telemarketers-people who are selling something-to call consumers who place their number on the Do Not Call Registry, or who do not have a prior business relationship with the company. Survey and opinion research is specifically exempt from the law because it is a critical part of making and monitoring policy decisions, ensuring that the views of all citizens have a place at the table when decisions are made. We respect your right not to participate in our surveys; however, we hope that once you have learned why your participation is important, and how your information is kept confidential, you will choose to take part.

Are you trying to sell me something?
No. We do not sell anything and we do not ask for money. We are not a telemarketing firm, and are not engaging in commercial speech as defined by the Federal Trade Commission. We are conducting legitimate survey research and as such are exempt from the laws that govern the Do Not Call Registry.

Are you a political organization? Is this a "push poll"?
No. We are not a political organization, and our survey is not a "push poll." We are a non-partisan, nonprofit organization, and we strive for objectivity in all of our research. Our surveys are designed to remove bias of any kind by asking clear, unambiguous questions and providing straightforward answer options. Further, while many of our surveys do ask about political, public policy, and government issues, they are not sponsored by partisan groups or political parties.

A "push poll" is an insidious form of negative political campaigning disguised as a legitimate poll. This is an unethical form of political telemarketing masquerading as research. Rather than objectively measuring public opinion, a "push poll" aims to persuade voters and affect election outcomes. We do not engage in this kind of polling; in fact, it is specifically prohibited by the American Association of Public Opinion Research's Code of Professional Standards and Ethics.

Why should I take your survey?
This is your opportunity to express your opinions about the topics and issues being studied in the survey. Survey results have a great influence on the organizations that commission the research. They take your feedback very seriously. Further, you have been randomly chosen to represent hundreds or thousands of others. Our selection procedures use the most rigorous methodology and ensure that each household has a known probability of being asked to participate. This is critical for producing survey results that accurately reflect the opinions of the larger population. Your participation is voluntary, and we respect your right not to take the survey. But we hope you will participate, so that your views will be represented in the final results.

Who sees my answers to your questions?
Only our director and project managers have access to survey data until it has been combined with information from other respondents into anonymous statistical tables. Your answers to our questions are processed separately from any information that might identify you, and your responses are not linked in any way to your name, telephone number, home address, or email address. Any information you provide to us will remain completely confidential. 

I'd like to take the survey, but you keep calling at a bad time. Can I call you?
We would be very happy for you to take the survey at a time of your choice. Please call us toll-free at (866) 366-7655. Interviewers are available Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 8:30 pm, Saturdays 11:00 am to 2:30 pm, and Sundays 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Please have available the phone number we originally called, so we can look up the survey questionnaire.

How come you keep asking for another member of my household when I answer the phone? I'd be happy to take your survey.
This can occur for one of two reasons. It is possible that we are conducting a "named" study, for which an organization has specifically asked us to contact the person we are asking for. More likely, we have asked to speak to the adult who most recently had a birthday. This is a way of further randomizing the respondents to our survey, so the results will reflect the general population as accurately as possible. Research into survey methodology has shown that if an interviewer simply speaks to the person who answers the phone, or who is the person in the home most willing to take the survey, then the survey results will reflect the views of significantly more women and older people than are in the population. By asking to speak with the person who most recently had a birthday, we are able to more accurately represent the population as a whole.

I don't want to take any surveys. Can you take my phone number off your list?
We are happy to remove your name from the list of possible respondents for a current survey. Please phone (866) 366-7655, and let us know which number we phoned. We ask that you allow us up to two days to remove your number; this means that you may receive another call after you speak to us or leave a message. If this happens, please tell the interviewer who phones you that you have already asked that your number be removed from the list, and do not wish to be called again.

However, removing your telephone number from a current survey does not mean that the number might not be called again for another survey. For each new survey, the random digit dialing system generates an entirely new set of phone numbers, and although the probability of regenerating your number is very low, it could occur. It is also possible that a client with whom you have a prior relationship might give us your number for a survey of their members or customers. But the statistical likelihood that we will contact you again in the future, for any kind of survey, is extremely small.

Do you keep my telephone number or personal information on file?
No. Once we are finished with a survey, all identifying information of both respondents and non-respondents is removed from our data files. Prior to the end of a telephone survey, a few respondents who completed interviews are randomly chosen to be called back by a supervisor, who will check to see that the interview was conducted properly and professionally. These phone numbers are kept until the validation is made, and then deleted from our files.

Some of our research requires follow-up surveys. If you are contacted for one of these projects, we may ask if we can contact you again. If you say no, we will not keep your contact information. But if you agree to take a follow-up survey, we will keep your information in a confidential file and use it only to contact you for the survey you have agreed to take in the future. Your personal information will never be linked in any way to your answers to any survey, and will always remain confidential.