Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is the call that never ends, it just goes... [Jay]

So my wife, who is now 7 months pregnant and enjoying no end to the brutal list of pregnancy induced irritations that have plagued her on the third time around, has made it clear she wants Mexican food for dinner. After we have finally corralled our two children in the usual battle royale that is leaving the house and as I am walking out the door the phone rings. Being the idiotic man that I am, I pick it up and a frightened young woman starts nervously asking me if I can participate in a survey that she promises me is not selling anything.

“How long will it take?” I ask.

“I promise to ask the questions as quickly as I can,” she answers.

“But I assume that you have done this before, about how long do you think it will take?” I ask again.

“I promise to ask the questions as quickly as I can,” she answers again and so eerily identical in tone to the first time that I wonder for a moment if this actually already happened.

In an attempt to break this weird pattern I try a new approach. “I am about to walk out the door, so if it is going to take too long I cannot do it, but if it is a couple of minutes I probably be willing to help you out here.”

“I promise to ask the questions as quickly as I can,” she reassures me and simultaneously breaks my will to resist. As I hear the words “alright, I’ll do it,” coming out of my mouth the back of my head catches fire from the gaze of my stunned wife and I see the children run off for further mayhem.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Well it did not take long to parse through some of the questions and realize that this survey was being done on behalf of none other than Planned Parenthood. Suddenly this had become a work call! As I relish in every opportunity to let any and all people know how much I just love (read “despise with an enduring and endless passion”) Planned Parenthood, I participated in the survey in the hopes that perhaps my negative feelings could somehow be translated into a statistic that I could one day pull out and site on a future post. My mind reeled at the possibilities.

The questions were pretty routine fare asking about the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the NRA (I assume that the pollsters see that organization as the ideological opposite in some sense at it was clearly a question meant to tell them more about the opinion holder than the opinions themselves) and more than a few questions about abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Now here is why I hate surveys. I was asked what view adequately expresses my own opinions about abortion (Obnoxiousness mine):

1 – The constitutional rights of women to have access to reproductive medicine must remain unfettered by restrictive laws passed by moral majority misogynists.

2 – There ought to be some “reasonable but limited” restrictions on abortion.

3 – Abortion should be restricted except in the extreme cases of life of the mother, rape and incest.

4 – Abortion should always be outlawed under every circumstance.

5 – I don’t know.

I then asked, “How do you note that I refuse to answer based on the grounds that my view is not accurately represented on your list?” She responds that I have to choose from the list. I ask her if option #3 is meant to be inclusive of those people that do not believe that the life of the mother ought to be sacrificed without consent but would not support the abortion of children of rape or incest.

She asked me, “So you want me to put you down for #3?”

“Not if it does not include the view that I just asked you about.”

“Then you want me to put you down for #4?”

“No I do not think that based on the way you phrased that option it accurately represents my beliefs. You could just note that I refused to answer this one over an objection to the question.”

She paused for a moment and then to my surprise she said, “Do you want me to put you down for #5, then?”

I collected myself and explained this was not a case where I did not know how I felt, it was a case where the question was flawed and their categories did not clearly represent my views. Another moment quietly passed and she finally said, “So do you want me to put you down for #3?”

Lets avoid the silly game of trying to figure out how this girl is processing the information I am giving so that she keeps changing the number that she wants to put down for me in an effort to move onto the next question. After a few more passes at trying to illustrate how my views are not represented in her options where by she responds with repeated suggestions on the appealing and intriguing possibilities of numbers 3, 4, or 5, I finally tell her, “You can either note that I do not want to answer this question, or we can quit this survey altogether, how about that? Does that clarify my position enough for you?”

“Please hold,” she says and leaves me waiting for about one minute while she confers with the great council on stupid surveys and someone anoints her with the necessary wisdom that she needed to either just fill in a number for me or move on to the next question. I know this because the very next thing I hear is a click and her voice saying, “The next question is how certain are you about your views on abortion: Not at all certain, somewhat certain, or very certain?”

“I would say I am very certain wouldn’t you?” But being the good little survey professional she was she pushed right through my attitude to ask me to grade Planned Parenthood on a scale 1- 10.

Let me think about that for a minute.

1 comment:

  1. I give surveyors fits, too. These questions were clearly designed to acquire predetermined results to bolster the survey commissioner's agenda. This is a common ploy. When it comes to opinion polls, statistics usually lie.


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