SurveyMonkey swings into the Australian polling market – and Malcolm Turnbull


Australian politicians and policy makers have a had a long and often unhealthy obsession with the results of polling and market research, but established players in the local market will soon have some digital competition   and maybe some help   in the search for what’s really on the minds of the community.

SurveyMonkey, the US headquartered online research juggernaut, has revealed it is rapidly building an extensive representative sample of Australians to poll as part of a sustained push into the local market.

The company estimates its expansion here will create at least 25 local jobs through the establishment of a new regional headquarters in Sydney, a move set to challenge incumbent providers of market research to the public sector.

The move down under from the cloud is being propelled by what SurveyMonkey’s chief executive, Dave Goldberg, says is very strong growth in both the government and enterprise sectors.

“[Australia is] actually our third largest market after US and UK,” SurveyMonkey chief executive Goldberg told Government News.

“On a per capita [basis] it’s our best market.”

Many agencies and departments already use SurveyMonkey’s online, cloud based survey service to reach out to customers and clients they already know they have.

But it’s the activation of a new service known as ‘SurveyMonkey Audience’ that will give its polling customers the real reach to tap into the wider community.

Goldberg says that SurveyMonkey is aiming for a representative Australian sample of around 200,000 people that can be selected, sorted, sliced, diced and polled by its enterprise and government customers.

A key point of difference in SurveyMonkey’s Audience product is that the representative sample is harvested from an opt-in function that appears at the end of surveys created by the firm’s customers.

The same opt-in function allows those respondents being polled by an organisation which they already know – either as a member, client or customer – to volunteer to take additional surveys pushed by SurveyMonkey itself.

Although SurveyMonkey says it doesn’t pay respondents money for their information, it does incentivise responses by making donations – effectively on behalf of respondents – to charities.

Initial Australian beneficiaries will be the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Mission Australia.

Goldberg credits the strength of the market here to what he calls a “pretty good acceptance of using technology and data” among not only the general population but also state, federal and local governments.

“Government is kind of over represented in Australia relative to the US,” Goldberg said of a comparative breakdown of customers, a difference he notes is partially because the not-for-profit sector is far bigger in the US is relative to government organisations.

These days, getting customer feedback and end-user data on government initiatives, programs and service delivery has now become a mainstream tool in the process of developing ‘evidence based policy’.

However research has traditionally been an expensive undertaking for government agencies and political parties.

That financial challenge has been made more difficult by representative groups of consumers and stakeholders becoming progressively harder to reach as traditional tools like home phone polling are blocked by the disappearance of fixed lines and uptake of call screening.

Now, online survey competitors are moving into the research survey space traditionally held by the likes of Nielsen, Newspoll and Roy Morgan.

Even though there would appear to be a clear competitive threat to incumbent polling providers, Goldberg maintains that the new SurveyMonkey Audience service could just as easily provide benefits to established researchers by giving them further reach into the community.

He notes that government clients here already using SurveyMonkey include the Department of Industry, West Australian public transport providers and numerous state education, health and community services agencies.

Goldberg estimates that around a third of parent surveys from the NSW Education Department are captured by his company.

Turnbull’s turned-on

There might well be interest in the substantial savings and a data goldmine to be had from departments looking to tap the views of the community, but it pales in comparison to the passion with which some politicians are embracing DIY polling of constituents.

Goldberg says he was not only impressed to find that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was already “a big SurveyMonkey user” during a meeting with the Member for Wentworth on Tuesday, but how technologically hands-on Cabinet members here can be – an observation that could send a shudder through the Prime Minister’s media minders.

Mr Goldberg said Mr Turnbull was “very unlike a lot of American politicians that I’ve ever met, he was very comfortable with technology and very interested in what we were doing. “It was a very different conversation with a politician.”

We did a little YouTube post, he [Turnbull] did a Twitter post and he did it all himself… Politicians generally use it in the US, but not generally themselves. They have [their] staff using it, that was kind of unique,” Goldberg said.

“It’s not what I’m used to with politicians at that level in the US.”

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2 thoughts on “SurveyMonkey swings into the Australian polling market – and Malcolm Turnbull

  1. You can be sure if Malcolm Turnbull thinks this is a good idea it isn’t. The man has proven time and time again he is a fool driven not by common sense or intelligence but rather ego.

  2. Too bad SurveyMonkey does not comply with the new Australian Privacy Principles. Any politician, government department or Australian entity that uses the software is open to action as all the data collected is stored offshore – somewhere.
    Malcolm – use an Australian survey product that keeps the data in Australia.

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