Friday, January 28, 2011

Better than focus groups?

Reagan polled his (postal) inbox.
Reagan had a rather statistical frame of mind (speechwriter Peggy Noonan said that the President's first drafts for speeches always included far more statistics than the public could put up with).

One of his more curious, but revealing habits, was that he had his White House staff provide him every Friday, with about 20 letters from citizens. On Monday, he'd give the staffers' his replies to send out. It was an odd system, but he felt that grappling with the idiosyncratic concerns of about 1,000 individual citizens per year provided a sample that kept him connected to the country.

I have no idea how effective this was. There's always selection bias to worry about. However, pollsters can partially correct for this, and perhaps Reagan's staffers did the same.

If you knew that Obama was polling his inbox the same way Reagan did, would you be more likely to send him an email? How willing are you to participate when a pollster calls you? Is there any tension between your last two answers?

2 Comments:

Blogger Erica said...

I'd probably be more likely to send a letter. A poll gives the white house the information they want, while a letter gives them the information I want, and captures more nuance. Reducing my opinion to a "yes/no" or "more likely/less likely" choice bothers me.

1/28/2011 4:03 PM  
Blogger Dave Milovich said...

I take your point. Fortunately, I was unable to make the comments to this post multiple-choice.

1/28/2011 5:24 PM  

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