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Portland Oregon 97229


Are public opinion polls still relevant?

Are you an average American? And just what is an average American anyway? Pollsters are often tasked with surveying a cross-section of Americans, but in these technological times, with diverse lines of communication, landline-free households, do-not-call lists, voice mail, call blockers, caller ID, and plain old apathy, how can surveys still claim to represent a cross-section of America?

The short answer: it ain’t easy. Nearly 40 years ago, we created consumer samples by highlighting names at random from a phone book. Some may be asking: what’s a phone book?

Today, telephone outreach is one of many ways to reach people and done right it continues to be a useful tool for measuring public perception. While managing the process to ensure the integrity of the sample is more challenging than ever, thanks to technology, other tools are available as well.

National and international panels of millions of willing participants are now available. Sophisticated lists and screening tools are available for identifying all manner of consumers. A sample of those we reached this year include:

  • Freeway Commuters
  • Students
  • Homeowners
  • Voters
  • Surgery patients
  • Latino populations
  • Church-goers
  • Energy drink consumers
  • Business owners
  • Pre-diabetics
  • Parents
  • Marijuana smokers

Every audience requires a different approach; some require incentives, but others are more than happy to share their opinions on important issues. And if you’re wondering, yes, we had brownies at the focus groups for the marijuana smokers.

So while the research industry has gotten very good at reaching unique and highly-specialized audiences, reaching that elusive “cross-section” of the public has become increasingly difficult. We take great pains to engage the people whose opinions we value, and we go to enormous lengths to design, collect, and validate the make-up of every sample, sometimes using a combination of approaches.

FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings continue to place Riley Research
among the highest-rated pollsters in the region.

While we’re not satisfied with a B+ the 538 ratings do place us in elite company.
Mike is an expert in strategic planning, market analysis, branding, and communications. His expertise includes quantitative surveys and qualitative focus groups involving consumer and stakeholder polling, analysis, and communications consulting.