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    Mail surveys, race and police, excessive force, and 9/11

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    1. What are some disadvantages of mail surveys? How may such disadvantages be eliminated?
    2. What are some distinct advantages of a qualitative data-gathering strategy?
    3. What impact does race have on citizen's attitudes toward police?
    4. When does the use of force by police become excessive or unjustified? Include your own definition of excessive force.
    5. What impact did the events of 9/11 have on the perception of police? Explain how and why.

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    What are some disadvantages of mail surveys? How may such disadvantages be eliminated?

    I assume you do not mean e-mail, just regular postal, Newman-from-Seinfeld mail.

    Mail surveys are a problem for many reasons. First of all, second class mail prices have gone through the roof since 1990. Second, the preparation and packaging of mail surveys of any kind are time consuming and expensive. It usually takes a team of 20-30 several days to get the normal number of pieces out. A good return is about 2%, 3-4% is extraordinary, and above that there are few examples.

    Of course, one way to overcome this is to buy a specialized list that only has people who are interested in your product. Market research firms and activist groups normally keep these. Renting them for a one time use starts at about $20,000 and up. They usually put one of their employees on the list to make sure that you don't use the list more than once (I've been involved in too many of these, I know this from experience). In some cases, mailing lists are the most valuable capital a group has.

    The survey must contain the actual name and address of the person. Usually, when it just says "occupant" it will not be opened. It also must be kept simple. If there are too many questions, or writing is involved, your response will go down. Always remember too, that not only does it take forever to get them out, recording the responses takes what seems like an eternity, and is nothing but drudgery (trust me).

    Overcoming these are particularly difficult, The 2% threshold for a typical mass mailing has not changed in years. Not to mention, snail-mail has become less important to people, and so responses are actually falling. Renting a mailing list can be massively expansive. One additional strategy is to offer incentives to participate. These can work, but do not always.

    What are some distinct advantages of a qualitative data-gathering strategy?

    This is an easy one. Qualitative data refers to descriptions and opinion that, under normal circumstances, cannot be quantified, that is, turned into numbers. The advantages of qualitative research are normally these:
    1. They offer more complete responses, since they are almost always open ended.
    2. You get the whole story: respondents can tell you exactly how they feel, and what their experiences have been relative to your topic.
    3. It stresses the person. We're looking for subjective ideas and opinions. This is essential.
    4. People can go into as much detail as they need.
    5. It usually uses smaller groups, so it can cost much less to create and is easier to interpret.
    6. ...

    Solution Summary

    The disadvantages of mail surveys are examined. The use of force by police to become excessive or unjustified is determined.