The Postal Service has just released the results of a survey it commissioned on its plan to end Saturday delivery. The Postal Service press release says the survey shows that 80 percent of Americans support the new delivery schedule.
Before you take that conclusion very seriously, there are a few things you should know about the new survey.
First, the survey was “fielded online.” That means that the people who most depend on the Postal Service and Saturday delivery — those who aren’t online all the time, like seniors and people in rural areas without good broadband — were excluded from participating in the survey.
Second, the Postal Service says that the survey used “a blended sample of panel and non-panel.” That means some of the people surveyed were recruited to participate. The Postal Service doesn’t provide any information about how the recruitment was done or who was selected to participate or what portion of the thousand people surveyed was pre-selected. One can only imagine how the selection process might have skewed the results.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the survey includes questions that are framed in ways that inevitably affect how people responded. The first question on the survey, for example, is: “Before today, do you recall hearing anything about the financial losses that the Postal Service experienced last year, of approximately $15.9 billion?”
The survey thus begins by presenting the participants with a huge deficit number, which undoubtedly inclines the average person to favor cost-cutting measures like ending Saturday delivery.
Subsequent questions on the survey are even more likely to bias the results. One question says: “After learning that this change will ensure that the Postal Service does not experience an interruption in service, to what extent do you support the decision of the Postal Service to begin delivering mail five days per week and packages six days per week, including continuing package delivery on Saturdays?”
Another question says: “After learning that this change will ensure that the Postal Service does NOT have to raise the prices of mail service or package delivery in the near future, to what extent do you support the decision of the Postal Service to begin delivering mail five days per week?”
The next question says: “After learning that this change will ensure that the Postal Service does NOT become a burden on U.S. taxpayers, to what extent do you support the decision of the Postal Service to begin delivering mail five days per week?"
The Postal Service thus basically tells survey participants, "If we don’t end Saturday delivery, we may need to raise postage raises, or we might have to look for a bailout from the taxpayer, or we may not be able to deliver the mail at all." These are obviously scare tactics designed to elicit the responses the Postal Service wants from the survey. They are not unbiased questions intended to get useful survey results.
The survey was conducted by IPSOS, a global market research company headquartered in Paris. The survey describes IPSOS as “a leading independent, publicly-listed market research company.” The survey is so patently biased, one has to wonder how IPSOS could have agreed to conduct it.
Perhaps it would be useful if the Postal Service conducted another survey that provided some actual facts about the context for its plan to end Saturday delivery — something that explains the causes for the deficit, the problems with the plan, and so on. Since the Postal Service is unlikely to commission such a study, Save the Post Office is conducting its own.
Like the IPSOS survey, ours is online, so the results are skewed toward Internet users, but we've tried to set up the questions in a more informative and objective way than the Postal Service did.
If you have a moment, please take the survey, and then click on the link to see the results so far. We'll be sure to share them with the Postal Service.
If you want to share the survey, email a link to this page (here) or go directly to the survey on Google docs here and forward that. (If the survey isn't appearing below, try refreshing your browser.)
Image source: Chicago Tribune