6 is the rank of “marketing/advertising” as a possible cutback in the coming year in a survey of local hospitality businesses by Santa Fe’s Chamber of Commerce.
1 is the rank of “other” in the same survey. Ranked least likely to face cuts are employee salaries (10) and health insurance (11).
"Lots of people rely on government [contracts]. We don’t, but it’s enough of a share of our business that we’re worried" —Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling, Inc.
Much like journalists, pollsters serve a valuable democratic function: gathering and disseminating opinion. They also release a lot of unnecessary stupidity into the world. (Did Gallup really need to check Sarah Palin's favorability rating among independents last month? And did The Wall Street Journal really need to pore over those results in advance of Palin's appearance on Oprah?)
Unlike the advertising-dependant news media, however, the polling business is somewhat recession-resistant. Even in downtimes, government agencies, from the US Census Bureau to the local school board, use pollsters to plan for growth and make trips to the DMV less painful.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling, Inc.—"the Gallup of New Mexico"—says his company hasn't had a layoff in its 23 years. With 37 full-time employees, this Albuquerque-based market research firm's experience is like a little Keynesian fable: Its revenues haven't fallen, Sanderoff says, because government work has made up for corporate cutbacks.
That could change given the state's growing deficits. "The private sector goes up and down, but somehow in New Mexico the government has managed to plod along," Sanderoff says. "This is the first time I'm worried about government work dropping off."
The upcoming 2010 Census and the redrawing of political maps will help keep demographers afloat. But other public polls—like the opinion survey about the Aamodt water settlement that Santa Fe County commissioned from Sanderoff in August—are discretionary. "If a government agency refrains from doing a citizen-satisfaction survey, then they lose the ability to measure in a scientific manner the citizens' needs," Sanderoff says. "They're flying blind."
Bruce Poster, president of Southwest Planning & Marketing in Santa Fe, says his business has seen a slight slowdown. Smarter companies, he says, invest to position themselves better after the recession. "You really are shooting yourself in the foot when you cut back on market research and marketing," Poster says.