Advantages Surveys on interesting topics, professional and well-designed website
Disadvantages Relatively high payout threshold
Founded in May 2000, YouGov is an independent market research agency which, despite the slightly misleading name, is not funded, run by, or affiliated to the Government or any Government agencies. YouGov uses the Internet and information technology to collect "higher quality in-depth data" for market research and public consultation, via its panel recruited from all ages, socio-economic groups and regions of Britain. It is commissioned by a wide range of clients including media agencies - newspapers, TV etc - academics, private companies and not-for-profit organisations. YouGov states that its mission is "To provide accurate and high quality research to all our clients, allowing YouGov panel members the chance to voice their opinions on a wide range of topics".The sample for each survey is carefully selected and controlled so that it is representative of the adult population as a whole - or the specific audience that the survey is designed to measure.
So, how does this actually work? Once registered as a member of the YouGov Panel, you will be invited via e-mail from time to time to participate in surveys on a wide range of topics, often of a political or social nature. The surveys to which you are invited will depend on your profile. For instance, some surveys may require participants of a particular age group, ethnic group or political affiliation. Each time you take part in a survey, your YouGov account will be credited with a cash amount depending on the survey's length, or you may be entered into a prize draw. Most surveys pay the enormous sum of 50p, although some do pay more - but 50p is probably the norm. Prize draw surveys don't have a cash reward. When your account reaches £50 - this could take some considerable time, as surveys are not necessarily all that frequent - YouGov will send you a cheque for that amount.Prize draws are frequently held, with prizes in the form of cash (up to £250) or account credit - a list of winners is available on the website. Winners of the weekly prize survey receive an account credit of £25.
Registering is simple - just fill out an online form with various details about yourself, your circumstances and your views - including your political affiliation (if any - it's not essential that you identify with a particular political party!). Once registered you will receive a joining credit of £1.00 in your account.How does YouGov compare to other survey sites? The surveys are, to me anyway, generally more interesting than many of those offered by other sites, often seeking your opinion on current political or social issues rather than simply "What do you think of Brand X" - aside, that is, from the regular BrandIndex surveys (see below). Survey results are frequently quoted in the newspapers. YouGov does have the advantage that - as long as you reply in time - you will qualify and be paid for all the surveys to which you receive an invitation, as your eligibility is pre-determined by your profile. None of that annoying business whereby you have to answer a trillion screening questions before being told dismissively that "you do not qualify for this survey". Once or twice I've had surveys which have ended after the first question (the one I remember was "Do you drink instant coffee?" "No." "Thank you for your participation.") but I still got paid for it.
The disadvantages include the fact that surveys are not, on average, all that frequent, so building up £50 in 50p increments could take a long time. Looking back at my account, I have earned £14.25 since I joined in June 2006 - hardly a fortune. YouGov surveys, though, are rather like buses - there are none to be seen for ages, then suddenly several appear in rapid succession. (At one point I received five in two days, followed by a gap of about a month!)You can expect to be asked about your voting intentions (one frequent question being "If there were a general election tomorrow, how would you vote?") so if you're not comfortable sharing information of this nature, YouGov is probably not for you.
A number of surveys are provided via a YouGov initiative called BrandIndex. This is a daily measure of public perception of more than 1,100 consumer brands across 32 sectors, measured on a 7-point profile: general impression, 'buzz', quality, value, corporate image, customer satisfaction and whether respondents would recommend the brand to a friend. As a member, you can expect to receive fairly regular BrandIndex surveys, asking for your perceptions of a number of different brands in particular categories: do you have a positive or negative impression, would you describe yourself as a "satisfied customer", would you be proud to say you worked for that particular company, etc. My heart does sink slightly when I get confronted with one of these surveys, as I'm not all that brand-aware and don't generally devote much thought to my impressions of different brands. I still feel obliged to fill them in, though!The website is well designed and easy to navigate, with many additional features. These include the Research and Polling Blog, written by Anthony Wells which reviews recent survey research and opinion polling, largely with regard to voting intentions. The latest figures appear to put David Cameron's Tories 7% ahead in the polls (not bad going for an ex-public schoolboy who looks like a boiled potato and has no policies). In addition, there is a current affairs column by John Humphrys, which is always interesting and insightful; and a column by YouGov Chairman Peter Kellner (previously a journalist and political commentator for the Sunday Times, Independent, New Statesman, Evening Standard, BBC Newsnight, BBC election programmes and Channel Four News)..
Also accessible via the website is the YouGov archive, which allows you to view the results of previous surveys in various categories, including Financial and Economic; Political; Social and Miscellaneous; Consumer; Europe; Iraq. There is also a section which enables you to look behind the scenes at how YouGov's polls work and how the findings are arrived at.The website also includes a Letters section whereby panel members can give other members the benefit of their wisdom - or otherwise - on current issues. It does state that YouGov does not publish all letters received, and that letters may be edited prior to publication. A cursory glance at some of the current letters would suggest, however, that the standard of debate is not necessarily all that high - it reminds me rather of the type of people who call in to radio phone-in shows.
On balance, I'd recommend YouGov as a survey site - although the cash rewards are fairly small (aren't they always, though), the topics covered in the surveys are often more interesting, and the absence of a pre-screening process is definitely an attractive feature. The possibility of seeing the survey conclusions and how these are used - either in the press or via the website - also makes it more interesting, at least in my view!
1 West Smithfield
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