The First Survey

Asking questions has been around since the beginning of language. Interactions cause us to wonder and be curious. With civilization came the want to organize it. Know where people are and what they need. Surveys are not a new concept. They are just becoming more popular and branching into new areas. Who was the first that decided to organize this information? How did surveys evolve with us to what they are now?

The United States Census

The Census is a survey of the people that live in the united states. There are records of one being done in the early 1700s in Virginia. Since then, they have changed them to collect more and more information about the people who live here. From 1790-1840 they only asked for the name of the head of the household. And then the number of people that lived there. That evolved into everyone’s name and other personal information. A beneficial way they use the statistics from the Census to allocate resources when needed. A simple survey has turned into a way to serve us. The Census can also be used when researching our ancestors. The records kept have helped many trace their family lines.

Royal Statistical Society

The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) was created in 1834. Other similar groups started around a decade earlier. Those did not survive. The RSS is still going strong today. They are a group for those that love statistics. The RSS even publishes a journal, The Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. It covers leading methodologies and how statistics can be applied to social issues. One tremendous contribution came in 1838. The RSS created the questionnaire. Which we still use in many different forms today.

Nielsen Ratings

Arthur C. Nielson was a market analyst in the 1920s. At first, his company collected data from those that purchased products and compiled that data for businesses. Letting them know how they could market to get more buyers. He then began looking into radio in the 1930s and was able to provide beneficial information. They compiled statistics on how many and where people were listening to different programs. In the 1950s, they moved into the television world doing the same thing. Companies then could target the right audience for their scheduled programs. Ensuring better ratings.

Phone and Web Surveys

With every invention comes a better way to communicate. Before the telephone, surveys had to be done in person. Once phones became a staple in every household, they became a tool. Instead of going door to door, people were just a call away. The Internet opened a whole new door. At the push of a button, questionnaires can be sent to hundreds of people. As technology evolves, it gets easier to collect data.

Surveys have had a long history. They started as a way to keep track of people and now a way to sell products better. There is a whole world dedicated to learning and improving the way surveys are done. 

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