Friday, March 28, 2008

Survey Says

I received a phone call yesterday evening asking me if I wished to participate in a survey. I gladly obliged, partially because I am a shut-in whose only contact with the outside world is my blog and mis-dialed phone calls, but mostly because I feel like it's my duty to compensate for all of the idiots America's survey takers seem to talk to each time they conduct a survey. Every time I hear about a survey that shows that 90% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth or something like that, I get upset about the rank ignorance that the survey uncovered, but then I get upset that I was never consulted. It's not like me answering the question correctly would have affected the outcome (unless they were using an incredibly flawed sampling methodology), but I feel like those of us who are not crippled by ignorance, willful or otherwise, have a duty to stand up and be counted.

The survey I participated in was about legal proceedings initiated by the town of North Tiverton against the Southern Union utility company over soil contamination resulting from the dumping of toxic coal gasification wastes from as far back as the 1940s. I didn't ask, but my guess is that the survey was paid for by the utility company since the questions were definitely slanted in their favor. It started out with some questions to tease out my political orientation. I was asked about how I felt about Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain as well as I how felt about the Governor of Rhode Island. I was also asked how I felt about Microsoft, National Grid, New England Gas, and the EPA. I get the questions about utility companies and the EPA, but why Microsoft? Perhaps animosity towards Microsoft a good proxy for general anti-business attitudes? After that, I was presented with a "hypothetical" situation where a utility company paid a trunking company to dump toxic wastes in an approved dump site, but the trunking company went ahead and dumped the wastes somewhere else and was asked who I felt should be held liable. This was presented as an either/or kind of question, which I found to be somewhat loaded, so I basically said that while I would hold the trucking company responsible for the illegal dumping, if the utility company didn't do their homework and just sent their waste out without making sure that the company they contracted with was actually going to dispose of it properly, they share some of the blame. I have to give the survey taker a lot of credit, he didn't try to force me to side with the utility or the trucking company, he just took down what I said and left it at that. The survey then ended with some standard demographic questions.

I looked into the story a little bit after doing the survey. I haven't found anything about a rogue trucking company in either of the ProJo articles I found, but this case has been going on for quite a while and I don't feel like doing an exhaustive search. Unfortunately, this wasn't a survey with right and wrong answers so I didn't get to cancel out anyone else's stupidity with my answers, but I still feel like I did my duty.

1 comment:

svec said...

The cynic in me says that the surveyor put you down for "utility company is completely innocent."

And also "sun revolves around the Earth."