Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Random numbers and letters

Measurable marketing requires the use of control groups. Control groups require the selection of random samples. Ensuring statistical validity across overlapping groups, even with normal distributions, can be difficult. But randomization is easy.

The New Hampshire Democratic primary has just given Hillary Clinton a shock victory, whereas Barack Obama was predicted to win by the pollsters. I am not going to comment on policies, just on the most pathetic randomization that I have ever heard seen. Not in the poll sample selection, which can be difficult. But in the ballot itself, which is ridiculous.

It has been suggested, and tests have proved, that a name listed at the top of the ballot is more likely to be picked than when placed at the bottom. The effect could be up to 3%, but I think we still do not have enough data yet to quantify exactly.

As ABC News reported: This year, the secretary of state changed the procedure so the names were alphabetical starting with a randomly selected letter, in all precincts. The randomly selected letter this year was Z.

Now that is just ridiculous. So given the lack of surnames ending in Z, the order was simply alphabetical. The fact that "this year" it was Z implies they are going to maintain this crazy idea. So a name like Miller is nearly always going to be above a name like Nader, in fact about 96% of the time. How is that random? And a name like Cleasby is always going to be above a name like Courtney.

Life is unfair, but ballots should not be.


Ann said...

You really think that life is unfair?

RNB said...

You know it can be. Sometimes.

I do like to link big world news with interactive consumer marketing ...

but this was not about the recent promotion interviews ;)