I just swapped emails with Tony Hufflett of The Fat Group. They’re trying to shake up the dull old world of market research; it certainly needs shaking up.
I thought this was an interesting point they make on their site about the honesty of responses to surveys.
There is room for respondent dishonesty in any questioning environment. The level of dishonesty grows with the increase in boredom or disengagment.
Our experience tells us that dishonesty (in any environment) occurs when the questioner either bores the respondent or the tone is wrong. This is even more true on the net when respondents are not having to act in an acceptable manner before another person (in a face-to-face encounter or over the phone (which creates its own artificiality)) instead they are able to be truly themselves and show how they feel straight away.
So the key to on-line honesty is to be creative, make it fun and don’t ask too many questions. If you still doubt on-line honesty you have only to look at the recent U.S and U.K elections. In both instances the web research came closest to the actual result. The reason: people couldn’t articulate face-to-face or over a phone something they felt the questioner might find unacceptable (such as under 35 and voting Tory in the last election) but would be honest about with their impersonal screen and in the voting booth.
When I do surveys, I recognise the point where boredom kicks in and I stop trying to articulate my real views and start rushing to get to the end.