“For how long are attitudinal segments valid? One year? Two? Five?”
The fact is, much depends on the industry you’re in. If it’s experiences massive changes in technology or public perception (think of self-driving vehicles, DNA testing or the firearms industry), attitudes can change quickly. But for other industries, we don’t expect to see attitudinal shifts on a large scale too frequently.
It was fun to test this in a real-life situation, with a client who assessed how consumers in their state felt about public resource issues in 2016 and wanted to repeat the exact same study to see if things had changed in 2018.
We surveyed a large group of respondents with the same demographic characteristics as in the 2016 study. The respondents weren’t the exact same people, but that actually shouldn’t have been a factor since the size of our respondents groups ensured statistically representative samples.
In 2018, as in 2016, the segments were determined by analyzing level of agreement from all respondents on a series of nearly 40 attitudinal statements. As in 2016, the analysis was completely organic, and the data was coded so that no one engaged in the analysis knew which statement was which.
Strikingly, in 2018 we found the same three attitudinal segments as we found in 2016, each within one percentage point of its size from the earlier study. There were small changes — some attitudes that hadn’t been associated with a particular segment in 2016 now were. For example, one of the segments included a concern about the global environment in their 2018 associated attitudes.
Attitudes that the agency and their client had been working to shift over the intervening two years had, in most cases, changed accordingly — evidence that the agency’s messaging on behalf of the client was having its intended effect.
All in all, it was a fascinating opportunity to repeat a study and see what we’d find two years later. I was gratified to see that our approach to segmentation reinforced the 2016 findings completely organically. The client plans to survey again in 2020 so we’ll see how far they move the needle by then!