Sponsoring a survey is a common PR technique designed to gain favourable coverage of the results.
"The two dirty words of market research," writes Carl Bialik, are "sponsored by." One example is a recent Microsoft-funded study, which found that "Microsoft was the company respondents most associated with reliable, high-quality hardware peripherals." The problem is that "the other choices" survey participants were given "weren't household names. ... Had the question been flipped to ask which company was least associated with reliable, high-quality hardware peripherals, Microsoft might well have won that one, too." The proliferation of sponsored studies is due, in part, to the press. "While many sponsored studies spawn no articles or are covered negatively, others receive undeserved attention -- at least enough to spur companies to keep funding more studies."
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- Carl Bialik, "When Considering Surveys: On Business, Follow the Money", Wall Street Journal (reg. req'd.), March 31, 2005.