"research" or "survey" questions. I am sure you know the sort of thing I mean. You pick up the phone in the middle of doing something important and a bright young voice or a very serious voice at the other end informs you that they are doing some "market research" or they are "asking about..."
I tell them politely (after all they are trying to do their job) that I do not answer those sort of questions over the phone.
That is normally the end of it but yesterday someone asked if they could send me some material to fill out. I told them no to that too.
"I am sorry no. I do not answer those sort of questions."
I put the phone down gently. I wanted to bang it down. I did not do it. That took great self restraint on my part.
Later I was accosted on the way home from a meeting. Someone else was doing research in the street. I do not often get accosted. (If you ride a tricycle and use a walking stick people assume you are also incapable of answering questions.) I was standing there talking to someone else. The bright thing bounced up to ask if we would participate in some "market research". We both said "no". I think I was the more polite of the two.
Doing that sort of market research is almost useless. If people refuse to participate (and we have every right to do so) then the results will end up biased.
My father answered the phone some weeks back. Someone was claiming to be doing a government survey and told my father he "must" answer the questions. My father may be almost 90 but he is intellectually able. He told the person at the other end. "I have no idea who you are. You could be anyone. I do not answer questions over the phone."
They did not phone back. Nobody has turned up at the door to arrest him for failing to answer the questions.
I know other people who will answer those questions. They will give answers opposite to the answer they would give if they were answering the question truthfully. They are the sort of people who will fill out a form with the answer to the question of "sex" with "yes please" or "no thankyou" according to their mood at the time.
It was therefore timely that this morning there was an article saying that the government has recently spent $30m on more of this sort of research. The most recent "opinion poll" shows the government behind again. It is what people expect at present.
"I voted for the government today" a friend told me. He does answer opinion poll questions - but never according to his beliefs.
So the opinion polls come out and one party is ahead of another - or are they?