OPINION20 November 2009

Ask a stupid question


We’re a little late in highlighting this nugget of survey abuse, but it’s definitely one worth covering. The culprit this time is one who we think really should know better: the service veterans’ charity Erskine.

Erskine put out a press release in time for Remembrance Day which begins: “School children believe Adolf Hitler was coach to Germany’s national football team and that the symbol of Remembrance Day is the McDonald’s Golden Arches, according to new research released today.”

Perhaps you saw it reported in The Times, the Mirror, the Express, the Mail, the Telegraph, the Metro, the Star, the Herald, the Daily Record or the Dundee Courier & Advertiser.

Words fail us on this one. First, as you may have guessed, these “shocking” answers were not provided spontaneously but came in response to multiple choice questions. So less a ‘survey’, more a quiz. We wouldn’t be surprised if many of the kids ticked the ‘German football coach’ box just because it was funnier than saying Hitler was leader of the Nazi party.

Choices offered on other questions included that Joseph Goebbels was Terry Wogan’s replacement on Radio 2 ( 1.27%), Winston Churchill was a 1950s pin-up ( 1.47%), and the First World War was triggered by the murder of John Lennon ( 15.02%). As you can see, Erskine has decided that these important findings merit two decimal places.

In the case of the Hitler question, 6.88% was enough for them to claim that “school children believe” he was the German football coach. On the McDonald’s question, it was 12.73%. Both those questions were answered correctly by more than three-quarters of the kids.

Erskine calls the results “astonishing”. No. It’s the questions that are astonishing.

An invitation to comment on one of the press reports of the survey asked: “Do you despair of education in this country?” No. We despair of PR surveys in this country.

Watch out for the December issue of Research, in which we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the public understanding of research and stats, and what the MR industry can do about it.



10 years ago

Full marks for pointing out this stupidity but what is the MRS doing these days not coming down like a ton of hot bricks on such madness? I thought that is part of what they are expected to do.

Like Report

10 years ago

Indeed, where is the MRS on this and other stupid polls? And who is contacting these newpapers?

Like Report