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Do you see tiny dogs in

raincoats and other


very important
questions…

By Christine Matthews

As anyone in the survey research business knows, asking the right questions is what
produces true insight. Consumer market researchers and micro-targeters have rich
data on seemingly irrelevant questions that provide important clues about behavior
and attitudes.
I'm of the ilk of pollsters that rely - perhaps too often - on the gold standard political
and demographic questions: party ID, ideology, race, age, geography, religion,
educational attainment, and, these days, whether or not the person watches Fox
news.

But this morning, after spotting a tiny dog in a raincoat on my way to school drop-
off, I started thinking about how the presence or absence of tiny dogs in raincoats
could serve as a kind of cultural marker for the people who live in these
neighborhoods.
Then I started to think of other short-cut questions that could be asked on surveys
that might tell a lot about a person's outlook, political identity, and even predict
their likely vote in a given contest. In this exercise, I am prohibited from asking any
of my standard demographic or political questions. I must rely on other questions
(as few as possible) to glean information. So, I'm including a few that I'm playing
around with a little right now. Maybe I'll test them.

 Do the tiny dogs in your neighborhood wear raincoats?

Note: We must be very clear about this. We are not asking whether the
person's own dog, in fact, wears a raincoat. But rather, whether there is a
possibility of actually seeing a dog wearing a raincoat where they live. Just for
the record, my dog emphatically does not wear a raincoat (that's why he has
fur), but it is, I now know, possible to see tiny dogs wearing raincoats in our
neighborhood.

 Is there a sidewalk on the street where you live?

 Do you put white lights or colored lights on your Christmas tree or do you
not celebrate Christmas?
 Do you have a current passport?

 How often do you eat at Cracker Barrel?

1. Monthly or more
2. On vacation or road trips
3. What's a cracker barrel?

 (Men only) What would the person who cuts your hair be called?

1. A barber
2. A stylist
3. A hairdresser
4. My wife

 (Women only): Do you scrapbook?

A while back, the ever so-segmenty question, "Do you have a tattoo" could tell you
something: Now, not so much. So, what questions are missing? What others would
you nominate?