Surveys in the news: Valentine’s day

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  • It was a familiar type of email, and one that I’d usually just delete, but in the interests of this book I opened it. “Valentine’s Day Romance Survey Results” from Fresh Flowers and Gifts in Australia. The same material is repeated on their web site, but I assume that it’s a seasonal promotion so here are the key points. I’m guessing that the panel referred to in the survey consisted of a
    couple of people in the Fresh Flowers and Gift’s marketing office. In
    other words, they made it up. No worries, the survey was just for fun
    and that comes across pretty clearly in the results.

    Read on and enjoy – and then I’ll discuss some more scientific surveys.

    An unscientific survey of Valentine’s Day views in Australia

    “A panel of Australian women, all experts in the
    fields of being women and receiving Valentine’s Day gifts, revealed
    today some special advice for men seeking Valentine’s Day romance.

    Here are the main findings from the Valentine’s Day survey.

    • All women expect Red Roses on Valentine’s Day – especially the ones that say they don’t.
    • The message on the card must be romantic. Be prepared to say “I love you”.
    • Diamonds may be considered as a suitable Valentine’s Day gift but should be accompanied by a red rose and a romantic message.
    • Proposals
      of marriage on Valentine’s Day are encouraged but should also come with
      diamonds, red roses, a romantic message and a prenuptial agreement.

    Australian men were asked their views on Valentine’s Day and receiving gifts.

    All
    men admitted being totally baffled by the concept of giving flowers.
    Writing a romantic message was really pushing the boundaries.
    Nevertheless, through years of observation, all men surveyed
    have witnessed and experienced the powerful benefits of sending
    flowers, especially on Valentine’s Day. Men understood sending roses on
    Valentine’s Day is considered a sound investment decision. Men’s views
    on receiving gifts held little surprise.

    • Food good
    • Chocolate good
    • Alcohol good
    • Alcohol, food and chocolate great
    • Card? Did it come with a card?

    A more scientific marketing survey in the U.S.

    Have there been real surveys of views about Valentine’s day? Intrigued
    by the fun survey above, I had a look. Mostly, they were about as
    scientific as the Australian one – and less amusing.

    I found one that has received quite a lot of press and Internet coverage, released by a PR agency under the headline “Valentine’s Day Survey: Many Lovers Prefer Sincere Cards Over Costly Dates
    and Flowers
    “.

    And the announcment goes on to say:

    “over a third of women (37%) appreciate Valentine’s Day cards with a love note
    more than a romantic date, flowers or candy — meaning guys, your wallets can
    breathe a big sigh of relief. In fact, even a third of men (31%) would prefer a
    greeting card with a love note over a dinner date, proving that many men’s
    hearts are not in their stomachs”.

    This is both accurate and misleading.

    Accurate,
    because this was a reputable survey conducted by a bona-fide market
    research business, and they carefully include a paragraph explaining how
    they did it in the press release. The headline is accurate because 31%
    of the U.S. population is a lot of people, and they said ‘many’.

    Misleading,
    because of the way that the press announcement is framed. When you read
    ‘many’, did you think ‘most’ or ‘less than half’? Would you think that
    skipping the red roses in favor of a nice card has a good chance of
    being welcomed by your loved one, or not?

    The press release doesn’t actually say: “you’ve got a good chance here”, but it implies it.

    In
    fact, if your loved one is a typical member of “total U.S. population
    ages 18 and over”, then you’d have over 50% chance of messing up if you
    went for the card-only option for a female recipient – and the odds are
    quite a bit worse if your recipient is male.

    Of course, your own
    loved ones aren’t typical and you won’t be swayed by surveys like this.
    But it’s worth thinking about how statistics can be manipulated to make a
    point.     

    A survey we can learn from in Japan

    I was more impressed with another survey that I found on Japan-guide.com, a site that aims to explain Japan to foreigners who plan to travel there. They looked at Valentine’s day and White day.

    Japanese
    women give their menfolk chocolate on Valentine’s day,
    expecting them to reciprocate with a gift on White day a month later.

    From
    the point of view of the survey designer, the interesting part about
    this Japanese survey is the meticulous opening paragraph, which
    explains:

    • how many surveys they sent out,
    • how many responses they received,
    • the likely bias in the results.  

    Bravo, Japan-guide.com!

    And to everyone, if you observe the holiday: happy Valentine’s day to you.

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