Are You Polling a Lot of Miners?

Just clicked a link to take a survey about Twitter, hosted at SurveyMonkey, and was immediately struck by the odd choices in their “profession” question:

I’m frequently aggravated by this question on a personal level, because “market research” is almost never a choice. While you sometimes see a “marketing” choice, if there is a “research” option, it somehow always seems (either explicitly or via connotation in my mind) to be about white-coated goggle-wearing folks in chemistry labs. But I’m not really talking about my own experience here as much as I’m just commenting about how odd it seems that Twitter, of all things, expects to have so many of its users working in the mining, farming, and construction fields, none of which traditionally lend themselves to being able to sit in front of a computer and update the world about your latest moment-to-moment activities. While I’m sure there’s a guy in a combine somewhere right now using Foursquare to tell us exactly which corner of his field he’s in, I’m going out on a limb and guessing there aren’t more than a handful of guys like that. (And why on earth are farming and mining combined? Seems weird.) If I were designing this piece of research for Twitter, I think I’d have a lot more choices that might apply to people who are likely to be using a computer for 8 hours a day.

tl; dr: one size doesn’t fit all. Customize and update where needed.

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3 Comments

Filed under answer choices, Market Research, social media, web research

3 responses to “Are You Polling a Lot of Miners?

  1. doug rivers

    These are taken, with minor modification, from the categories used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You may be somewhat surprised to learn than agriculture and mining together have almost as many employees as “information.”

    http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0607.pdf

    The problem with borrowing this classification from the BLS is that these data are collected using the respondent’s description of their industry and occupation and then coded. When trying to collect this information from respondents, you need to use questions and response categories that are meaningful to respondents.

    In this example, the question and response categories are mismatched. The question asks the respondent’s “profession” (more or less equivalent to what the government statistical agencies call “occupation”), but the response categories are, in fact, industry of employment (and described in the mindset of the BLS or Census).

    Incidentally, there are more miners than market researchers in the US. And since hardly anyone truthfully reports at the beginning of a survey that they work in “market research or advertising,” why do market researchers insist on asking it?

  2. I’ll start at the end — I agree, and have written about how I never acknowledge I work in market research if the question is obviously being used to screen out researchers. If I’m answering the question at the end of a survey, though, or as a non-survey piece of information, I hate having to check “other.”

    I do find it a little surprising that agriculture and mining has as many people in it as it does, though it occurs to me that “information” is probably under-counted. If you spend your work day digging coal out of the ground, there’s not much ambiguity about what box you should check when asked your profession (or industry.) If you spend your days doing market research for the advertising industry, you might check “information,” or “arts, entertainment, and recreation,” or “professional and technical services,” none of which is really inaccurate. Though, my overall point here isn’t that agriculture & mining is inherently a bad choice to offer in general — it’s that Twitter would be better served by offering deeper choices that better reflect its probable user base, and that we all should think about whether the choices we’re offering our respondents are too cookie-cutter.

  3. Jim

    Correct as regards the BLS categorization. The old SOC code book maintains these general broader categories, and breaks down specific job titles. I think these were established in the late 30s, early 40s. Some titles include elevator operator (under transportation), and I recall that Automobile Seat Upholsterer was a different code from Upholsterer.

    It’s present in the business but vestigial, much like the 80-column card.

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