Condemned Survey Practices

AAPOR joins the Research Industry Coalition and the National Council on Public Polls in condemning certain misleading practices sometimes performed in the name of research. In no case are the following practices deemed legitimate or acceptable elements of professionally conducted research:

  1. Requiring a monetary payment or soliciting monetary contributions from members of the public as part of a research process.
    This set of practices amounts to fundraising under the guise of research (frugging). In some cases, unwary members of the public are enticed to contribute money as a condition of gaining some future “benefit” from their participation. It takes unfair advantage of the cooperative attitude that a majority of the public manifests when asked to take part in a legitimate information-gathering process.
  2. Offering products or services for sale, or using participant contacts as a means of generating sales leads.
    A common practice is to gain entry or acceptance in order to make a sales pitch by initially defining the contact as being made for “research” purposes. This trades on the prestige of science, and it exploits the willingness of the public to reveal information about themselves in the public interest. In some cases, questions establish respondents’ susceptibility to sales pressure or their interest in some product or service. Follow-up contacts are then made to those so identified, all under the guise of “research” (sugging).
  3. Revealing the identity of individual respondents to a survey or participants in a research process without their permission.
    It is normal research practice to pledge anonymity or confidentiality to the public in order to secure their cooperation and frankness in responding to questions. Revealing the identity of individuals, for whatever purpose, is a violation of that pledge unless a respondent’s prior informed consent has been obtained.
  4. Representing the results of a self-selected “poll” as if they were the outcome of legitimate research.
    Write-in, call-in, and interactive polls have become increasingly common. These “polls” report the opinions of only those people who called in, and not those of the general public. AAPOR believes that any publicizing or promotion of such activities not only damages legitimate market and survey research but can be very misleading when used to influence public policy or simply to disseminate information about the general public.

As members of AAPOR, a professional organization which relies on public cooperation to gather information that is useful in formulating public policy as well as in understanding the public’s preferences for products and services, we condemn these practices in the strongest terms.