Social Security Survey: A Primer on Methods

As a nation, the United States has a stable of perennial debates, but none are as pervasive as the subject of Social Security.

Despite the politics driving the discussion, Social Security merits a serious, contemplative look. Our parents and grandparents paid into a system that they rely on today thanks to young workers, and we’ll spend the next couple of decades looking for some degree of security when we get to a point where we can’t work any longer.

Does Social Security Matter” is a survey aimed at getting a nonpartisan survey on a range of demographics. To that end, there were no questions about partisan politics or the pending elections. Instead, the questions are limited to individual experiences and opinions about not just Social Security, but also retirement in general.

As of Tuesday night, 43 respondents of differing ages, regions and opinions responded to the survey. The first few responses were almost exclusively students in the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism program, but many of those students also come from different perspectives and experiences with retirement. That said, all of them are too young to really experience a gripping reaction to the need of a solvent retirement plan.

I extended my search for responses by reaching out to an e-mail list of more than 30 individuals from around the country, and requested that the recipients forward the request to their circles. I then used Google Reader to search for articles and blog posts discussing Social Security. I would then register in the respective communities and post a comment asking readers to take part in the survey.

“Off topic, but if any TK readers have a moment, I’m a student journalist doing a quick nonscienti­fic, nonpartisa­n survey on Social Security and am hoping to get some feedback. It’s just a few questions aimed at better understand­ing how people perceive Social Security and retirement­. If you have any interest in participat­ing, it’s at http://bit­.ly/ss_sur­vey.


The comment was left on a range of sites: Huffington Post, Hot Air, Patterico’s Pontifications, Daily Kos, Think Progress, the Washington Post’s Wonkblog and The Daily Caller. All blogs are political blogs of different political affiliations but with vibrant and active commenter communities.

The responses are candid, and most seem willing to express their honest opinion. The biggest hurdle was in my asking for e-mails. I decided against requiring it until halfway through the first three weeks only because I didn’t want to deter people from participating. Unfortunately, I found that interesting answers had no attribution and I had no hope of reaching out to the person. Making e-mails required, however, led to at least one false e-mail and responses to comments asking if I was just phishing for e-mail addresses.

Otherwise, I’m fairly confident that my questions were targeted and that the survey was structured in a logical and productive way that garnered a good share of helpful data points.

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About Chester Soria

Chester Jesus Soria is a Brooklyn-based freelance multimedia journalist currently studying at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He has written on culture, criminal justice issues and politics and has been published the New York Times’ Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Local blog, Alternet, Houston Press and the Innocence Blog. Read more at