I find the national obsession with political polls kind of funny. Everyone gets a slightly different result, and pundits like to talk about variables, such as likely voters, registered voters, swing voters, yada yada yada. But one of the factors that I don’t think is accounted for enough in the pundit discussions is that things and people change. We are not exactly the same every day. The best intentions cannot be acted upon. A chance conversation changes someone’s mind. The cows get out. It rains. On a scale of 1 to 10, today I am an 8, tomorrow I may be a 7. And those of us conducting consumer research consider a 7 very different from an 8!

I used to help another company find specific people to answer their internet surveys. We would call them one day, ask the qualifying question, and they would say 4 on a 5-point scale. Great! You’re in! Then they would go to the internet survey and answer 3. 🙁 Oops, you’re out. I would call these people up to find out what happened… “Well,” they would say, “I don’t know. Could be a 3, could be a 4. I didn’t think it was that important.”

And that ambiguity is often the trouble, especially with the farmer audiences we serve. They’ve got a lot of things to think about, and answering our questions is a kindness or a curiosity. That’s why its important to make the questions as relevant as possible, so that farmers, and vets, and nutritionists, are interested in having a conversation and feel great about it when they are done.

Because, as you know, US agriculture is extremely consolidated. Twenty to 50 firms control the vast majority of egg, chicken, pork, and finished beef production. Dairy is quickly becoming the same, because producers have discovered that if you can manage 3,000 head successfully, you can manage 60,000 as well. The answer is always “more cows,” one of the largest dairy producers in the country told me one time.

But back to political polling. I read a New York Times article about a district in Minnesota. They revealed how many calls they had to make to get 507 completed surveys. Care to guess?


I figured it out; that’s a 3% response rate to a question virtually any voter can answer.

In agriculture, we don’t often have the luxury of  surveying 19,641 people to begin with. We have 50 or 200 or sometimes 5,000. Very rarely do we have 20,000 names. So at Millennium, we take care to treat every farmer we talk to respectfully and with kindness. We want them to enjoy the process. We get better answers, and clients get real insights – not just data.

Our feedback from a recent online survey completed through a third party panel proves our dedication to this principle:

As a Founding Member of Research Voice, the industry initiative to reconnect people and research, SSI asks participants at the end of every survey what they thought about the experience. Their rating, in combination with factors for survey completion rate and length, creates the QUEST score (Questionnaire Experience Satisfaction Tool). The goal of the QUEST Program is to learn from participants’ feedback and propose better surveys that will lead to better data. 

Millennium QUEST score                                                      = 89
Average score of all other surveys fielded in past 3 months  =  75

The QUEST score is calculated on a 100 point scale, taking into account survey length, participant completion rates, and satisfaction score.

And we always remember that, just like land, farmers are a dwindling resource. We have to take care of the ones we’ve got.