FEATURE1 April 2011

Diary: Singing, surgery and survey research

A round-up of things that caught our eye in and around the research industry this month.

A flawless figure?

A YouGov poll on cosmetic surgery in Britain seemed to suggest that Diary’s views on the matter are vastly out of kilter with the rest of the population. A report in The Sun said that the number of people whose spouse or partner has “seriously suggested” that they undergo cosmetic surgery is 78%. Only 2% said their other half hadn’t suggested this (the other 20% were single). The way Diary was brought up, it just wouldn’t be right to say to one’s sweetheart, ‘Darling, I love you, but I find you physically repellent so I’d like you to undergo an expensive and risky medical procedure.’ But perhaps that’s just us being old-fashioned? Sadly, when we asked YouGov about the stat, they confirmed that the numbers should have been the other way round – but The Sun still hasn’t corrected the figures on its website. We just don’t know what to believe anymore.

How to win fans and influence people

If you yearn to make a difference and be remembered for something, it turns out there’s not much point seeking high office or taking a principled stand against injustice. Don’t bother slaving away for years to get to the top of your professional field or battling oppression in a bid to make the world a better place. All you have to do is be really, really good at karaoke. In a poll of readers of Metro, Leona Lewis has been named “London’s most influential woman”. To be fair, Metro has taken some liberties with that headline – Lewis was picked in an online poll as the “favourite” from a list of 35 women who are appearing in an exhibition of influential women at London’s City Hall. The X Factor star bagged an impressive 71% of the vote, making her 14 times more “influential” than the runner-up, Margaret Thatcher, and forty times more than Emmeline Pankhurst.

Ceci n’est pas une question

Sunday 27 March was census day in the UK, when millions of citizens dutifully filled in their details on a form and posted it off to the government. But Diary wonders whether anyone else noticed question 17, which simply said: ‘This question is intentionally left blank.’ Was it a trick? There are, after all, fines of up to £1,000 for not filling in the census. Were we supposed to hazard an answer? In the end Diary wrote NO IT ISN’T in large block capitals and moved on to question 18. The matter has also been raised with the Office for National Statistics, in a letter that reads: “Dear Sir or Madam, This letter has intentionally been left blank.”

DIY? DIY not?

Here at Research, we’ve tried to welcome DIY research firms into the fold, but if they insist on calling themselves things like SurveyMonkey, they will always be met with a few sneers from seasoned research types. At the Research 2011 conference SurveyMonkey’s VP of methodology Philip Garland took to the stage to discuss the pros and cons of DIY. Martin Oxley introduced Garland by saying he was surprised to hear SurveyMonkey even had a chief methodologist. Garland was, however, unfazed. He didn’t deny that SurveyMonkey and other DIY providers appeared on the online research scene at about the same time as a rise in the number of survey invites being sent out. But he told the audience: “You of all people should know that correlation is not causation.” Touché.