Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, May 15, 2021

When two days of last week’s Doonesbury lamented how the John Bolton affair was just the latest skirmish in a neverending ideological re-fighting of the 1960s, I thought it was a bit of a stretch.

But then, I read today about George Lucas forging the Star Wars storyline as a metaphor for the Vietnam era.

It’s a bit unsettling to think that so many aspects of our world — political, cultural, economic, etc. — are still being informed by battle lines drawn some forty years ago.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/15/2005 02:38:59 PM
Category: Politics, Pop Culture, Society
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What are hedonics? Simply put, they’re an inside-the-Beltway way to cook the macroeconomic books, making inflation seem like less of a drag on the system.

Perhaps this Wall Street Journal illustration will make it even more clear:

To most people, when the price of a 27-inch television set remains $329.99 from one month to the next, the price hasn’t changed.

But not to Tim LaFleur. He’s a commodity specialist for televisions at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government agency that assembles the Consumer Price Index.

In this case, which landed on his desk last December, he decided the newer set had important improvements, including a better screen. After running the changes through a complex government computer model, he determined that the improvement in the screen was valued at more than $135. Factoring that in, he concluded the price of the TV had actually fallen 29 percent.

So, the best I can figure, it’s a hyper-amortization of consumer goods, applied month-to-month instead of yearly.

And just when you thought “Freakonomics” was wild stuff…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/15/2005 02:22:56 PM
Category: Politics
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For all the magnified attention put on people abandoning traditional phone service, the majority are still hanging onto those old-style wall jacks. Only 6 percent of American households don’t have a landline telephone, opting to go with wireless phone(s) or VoIP options.

Still, the trending is clearly heading toward eventual extinction, so public opinion researchers are trying to get a grip for what lies ahead for getting accurate polling samples in a cell-dominated world.

This issue first reared its head during the 2004 projection polls for the Presidential election. It turned out that more focus went into the shortcomings of the exit poll interviews; the absence of cell-only opinions in pre-election polls doesn’t seem to have skewed results much. But by 2008, people who use wireless and Internet calling exclusively is likely to double (at least) from what it is now, and it’ll become much more statistically significant.

Of course, traditional telephone interviews — still the best way to administer opinion surveys — won’t fly when the subjects have to pay for the minutes being chewed up, and can look at the Caller ID to simply avoid the incoming call. So how do pollsters break through?

The Nielsen Cell Phone Sampling Summit II from this past February (I like that it was a movie-like sequel; I would have opted for tacking on, “The Revenge”) produced some intriguing ideas for tackling the problem. Here’s one that aims straight at the source — the wireless providers themselves:

Cell phone industry input — we need to know the future direction the industry is taking with technology, cell phone plans, billing, messaging, airtime free numbers, etc. Invite them as a stake holder to future conferences/summits

In other words, cut in Verizon Wireless, Cingular, etc. as research partners. It makes sense, and would enable a lot of creative incentivization for customers willing to play along. The providers could solicit customers who want to participate in polls, and offer free-minutes time period during which to take the surveys. Those same customers would be identified as prime targets for other survey opportunities, as well as other marketing possibilities.

Beyond telephone contact, there’s always the possibility of Web-based surveys. I’m a fan of them — I take several of them per month — but even well-designed ones aren’t always the most reliable method of conducting hard-core research. Still, I would imagine Nielsen and others will start to shift more and more weight to them in the future.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/15/2005 01:57:53 PM
Category: Society
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