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Number 12 (3/2003)

Visibility through Political Opinion Polls

Helena Laaksonen    

Taloustutkimus Oy, a privately owned market research company, is well-known in Finland for its polls on political opinions. These polls are commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE and Taloustutkimus has been conducting YLE polls since 1978.
- Sometimes it feels that we are too well-known for this. We get asked whether we do anything else, says Research Director Hannu Ilkas. He estimates that opinions polls bring Taloustutkimus 95% of its visibility even though they constitute only a fraction of the company's research activities.

Hannu Ilkas In reality, a large part of the research activity is sponsored by the industry. The media, trade and other service sectors are other important client groups. For the past ten years it has been the public sector service studies which have increased most.
- Often we are talking about extensive surveys commissioned by ministries, with sample sizes of 5000 -10000 persons, Ilkas explains. Recent examples include an extensive Police Security Barometer, the latest part of the security barometer series launched in 1999 and commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior.

EU membership increases social science research

FSD collections include Development Co-operation Surveys commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ilkas says that EU membership has increased commissions which could be classified as social science research.
- Taloustutkimus collects data with a variety of methods: telephone or face-to-face interviews, postal surveys, street interviews. We also conduct qualitative research, Ilkas lists.
- Internet surveys are also used. In the case of consumer studies one cannot expect representative samples. Internet surveys are useful for testing question batteries and advertisements and for the creation of reader panels based on the subscriber registers of the printed media.

Interviews are computer-assisted. The company has a CATI Unit in Helsinki where two hundred interviewers work in two shifts. The face-to-face interviews are also computer-assisted (CAPI) and there is a network of one hundred interviewers located in different parts of the country. 25 of them work full-time.

Support for archiving

Like many experienced data collectors, also Ilkas confesses being a supporter of data archival and re-use. He says he has long felt the need for a permanent arrangement for preserving data.
- It is always a pity to see data used only once. Usually just the surface has been touched, he points out. The need for archiving has become even more evident as the number of surveys commissioned by the public sector has increased.

Taloustutkimus has the responsibility to store research data for two years.
- In practice, the basic data are often stored for up to ten years. The oldest data sets are about 20 years old but in terms of re-use and archiving the problem of the old data has often been the ever-changing software.

Ilkas estimates that a large part of the company's oldest data are already lost.
- The best solution is that it would become a routine procedure to archive the data after data collection is completed.

Taloustutkimus began operating in 1971 and enlarged its operations to international markets in the early 1990s. At present the company has subsidiaries in Russia, the Baltic Countries, Sweden and Germany. In Finland it has offices in Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Oulu.

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