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Why can’t I opt out of opt-outs?

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We often get queries regarding question opt-outs and compliance changes, particularly when they appear to hurt a piece of research. While opt-outs can feel contradictory, they’re important to ensure a survey holds up to scrutiny.

Including opt-outs in research is a vital part of the Market Research Society (MRS) Code of Conduct.

What is the MRS Code of conduct?

The MRS Code of Conduct provides support to all individuals and companies who engage in research, data analytics and insights. This Code maintains professional industry standards across all research projects. All reputable research organisations adhere to this code and employ members who are affiliated with the MRS.

The inclusion of opt-outs come from rule 33 of the Code of Conduct;

“Members must take reasonable steps to ensure all of the following;

  • that participants can provide information in a way that reflects the view they want to express, including don’t know/ prefer not to say where appropriate;
  • that participants are not led towards a particular point of view”

But surely everyone has a favourite flavour of ice cream?

Upon receiving a set of survey questions, our compliance team runs through them with a fine tooth-comb. It’s on them to ensure that the MRS Code of Conduct is applied throughout and that respondents are not forced to answer in a specific way.

For example, let’s say an ice cream brand wants to identify the nation’s favourite flavour of ice cream. In order to collect this information, they provide the following question for us to ask the panel:

“What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?”

  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla
  • Rum and Raisin
  • Chocolate

Yes, the question is correctly structured but the first change the compliance team will make is the inclusion of an “Other, please specify” option. By including this ‘opt-out’ we are not forcing respondents to select from the pre-determined list. Instead, we give them the ability to state their favourite beyond the possibilities given.

Secondly, the compliance team will also add an “N/A I don’t have a favourite flavour of ice cream” option and “I don’t know”. Very simply, we can’t assume everyone participating in the survey has a favourite flavour of ice cream. We have to be able to cater for this possibility.

Although it goes against what the ice cream brand is looking for, these opt-outs are crucial in keeping the survey compliant with the MRS Code of Conduct.

The compliance team will also add a question before this,

“Do you eat ice cream?”

  • Yes
  • No

By simply asking respondents, “What is your favourite flavour of ice cream” we are assuming they eat ice cream. We must first identify if this is the case.

Opt-in to Censuswide compliance

We work with clients to provide reliable and respected research following principles defined by the MRS. With that, changes made to your survey will always be explained. So if you need sign off from management or clients, the reasons behind opt-outs and compliance changes are given and explained in the context of the Code of Conduct.

If you’re interested in getting in touch on how Censuswide can help with staff satisfaction surveys, please email [email protected], or call 0207 251 9955.

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