Face-to-Face Interviewing

I place on exhibit first the practice of using face-to-face interviewing in the local surveys. This is the standard method used by local pollsters for eliciting responses from survey participants. They say so in their own reports.

In this survey method, respondents are tracked door-to-door and interviewed by the pollsters’ personnel in the field. They are asked to respond to the pre-set questionnaire and shown pictures of candidates as appropriate.

In the past, personal or face-to-face interviewing was initially viewed as an appropriate method for conducting opinion surveys because it ostensibly allowed the pollster to select the “right” respondent to be interviewed. After major failures, however – notably, the erroneous forecast of Dewey’s victory over Truman in 1948 – this survey method was discarded, so much so that reputable pollsters in the US have now totally abandoned it.

Why was that? We invite some experts to tell us why. Chava Frankfort-Nachnias and David Nachmias in Research Methods in the Social Sciences write: “The very flexibility that is the interviewer’s chief advantage leaves room for the interviewer’s personal influence and bias.”

The pollster Kenneth Warren in his book, In Defense of Public Opinion Polling, says: “The cons of door-to-door interviews far outweigh the pros…Because of the sensitivity or personal nature of some questions, interviewers, because they were placed in face-to-face situations, have admitted that they sometimes guessed or fudged responses…These problems are a major source of bias in personal interviews, causing significant contamination of the poll data.”

These methodological and practical problems according to Warren have doomed face-to-face interviews. By 1980 in the US, nobody wanted to pay for this type of surveys which were “fatally flawed and grossly inaccurate anyway.”

This, however, seems to have had no persuasive effect on our local pollsters.


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