Reconciling survey data with the real world.

A recent survey from Deloitte found that one in five U.S. residents say they have either cut the cord (i.e., cancelled cable or satellite service) or are thinking about doing it. Nine percent of survey respondents indicated they have recently “cut the cord” while another eleven percent are thinking about it. Cord cutters are turning to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, to name a few.

Interesting and a considerable percentage, but probably not true.

The problem?  The TV industry reported flat subscriptions last year.  As this article notes, even with a large margin of error, the numbers don’t work.

What happened?  Assuming the TV industry is not misleading their subscribers (a 10% drop would be hard to hide in earnings reports) or there isn’t a flood of new subscribers hiding the cutters (though the article seems to discount that, too), the one culprit is likely poor sampling.

The survey was administered online, and while more and more Americans are online, biases are still likely.  While they didn’t reveal how they sampled respondents online, my initial guess is that they skewed towards early adopters and people with faster, more consistent access to the internet.  The exact population you would expect to be shunning cable in favor of online options.

If you’re not really surveying a representative sample of the population you’re interested in, then you’re not really surveying them.