CAREFUL NOT TO BE A “SLAVE” TO RESEARCH. As useful as attitudinal surveys can be, there is a risk to becoming a “slave” to public opinion research. Results from tracking politics, marketing or issues, oblige interested parties to make judgment calls, especially when the findings contradict a planned course of action. The choices then are to: 1) change direction to follow the results, or 2) stay the course and commit to adjusting public opinion to follow what is believed to be a better path.
More often than not, and usually with some angst, courses are changed. This option, though, is more suspect and complicated when survey responses are based on speculation about the future.
A perfect example, related to “aging,” is the proliferation of surveys indicating most all Baby Boomers want to age in their own homes, not in “retirement” or skilled nursing communities. At Eskaton our anecdotal research among residents contradicts this attitude and has prompted us to plan to quantify these findings by surveying our full population of 3,000.
To further marginalize the value of many attitudinal surveys, ask who can say with certainty what they will want or need 20 years into their future. In fact, many of us think differently today than yesterday. It is human nature to reprocess as we gain more information and adjust to new circumstances.