Luntz needs to subcontract

by Ted on October 5, 2004

Speaking of this, there was another passage from Howard Kurtz’s Media Notes column that caught my eye as a former market researcher. (I actually asked a question about this during the Media Notes Q&A session, but it wasn’t selected.)

Luntz, who is under contract to MSNBC, had already spent $30,000 on recruits for several focus groups…

I worked in market research from 1997 to 2001. By some measures, it wasn’t very long, but it was long enough to get an idea of the costs involved in conducting a market research project.

If I understand correctly, Luntz had 18 people in his group. That’s over $1600 in recruiting costs for each respondent that showed up.

Caveats first:

1. It might be especially hard to recruit for a televised focus group. Maybe people who want to be on TV are more rare than I suspect, or the screening requirements are unusually strict.
2. Recruiting costs must have gone up since 2001.
3. Publicizing your costs is a tactical decision. Maybe MSNBC just pays any bill Luntz puts in front of them, and Luntz pads his costs. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that. Maybe he tells everyone else they’re getting a special deal. Who knows.
4. This is, by any reasonable standard, no big deal.
5. I can’t prove any of this. No one posts their recruiting costs online (see point 3.)
6. I’m probably forgetting about Poland.

Having said all that, I’m still convinced that spending $30,000 to recruit a reasonably balanced panel of 18 voters to be on TV is extremely high. Recruiting a panel of voters with a spectrum of political beliefs should have cost, very roughly, a few hundred dollars each. It’s done by low-wage phone bank workers, and it only approaches those kinds of costs if you’re looking for extremely rare people or people who put an extremely high value on their time. If we were talking about physicians in Manhattan, and a recruitment firm wanted $1000 each to recruit them, I’d think that that was on the high side.

If Luntz is lumping in his own fees, I could see it. Luntz probably double- or triple-recruited, so that he could choose a telegenic mix at the last minute. But it’s hard for me to see how Kurtz’s reported figure- $30,000 in recruiting costs- could be accurate.



Ross 10.05.04 at 5:07 pm

You’ve forgetten one important thing, Ted:

What Luntz does is hard work.


Ross 10.05.04 at 5:09 pm

Don’t you understand, Ted?

What Luntz does is hard work.


Thomas 10.05.04 at 5:28 pm

“Luntz, who is under contract to MSNBC, had already spent $30,000 on recruits for several focus groups…”

I think the key is the word “several”. Remember, there are 4 debates. It seems likely that Luntz had made efforts for each of the 4. If that’s the case, his expenses are in the range you suggest is expected (“a few hundred dollars each”).


Howard Kurtz 10.05.04 at 6:07 pm

Luntz is identified as a Republican. There are an infinity of excuses for Republican numbers.


bill o'reilly 10.05.04 at 6:30 pm



dick cheney 10.05.04 at 6:33 pm

Go f*ck yourself!


g.w.bush 10.05.04 at 9:41 pm

Let me finish!

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