Are Market Researchers Misrepresenting African Americans In the Online Sample Industry?

July 20, 2020 Author: ThinkNow

The Black Lives Matter movements that erupted following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have sparked a massive cultural shift in the American consciousness and sparked a global conversation about equality. For the first time, many corporations are lending their voices to denouncing racial injustice and pledging to be more culturally sensitive and inclusive in business. But the outpouring of support has come with notable backlash. Consumers have blasted many brands for “performative woke washing” and not backing up their claims with action.

While the market research industry has mostly embraced the Black Lives Matter Movement, I urge fellow researchers to go beyond issuing a powerful statement. Take a closer look at your samples to ensure African Americans and minorities across the board are equally represented. Far too often, multicultural sampling has fallen short.

In this blog, I touch on critical factors market researchers need to adjust to improve African American sampling, multicultural sampling, and representative sampling as a whole.

African Americans Misrepresented

In my eight years of market research experience, I’ve worked on hundreds of research projects. Unfortunately, African Americans have often been misrepresented, speaking to a larger problem of faulty minority sampling methods.

Using online surveys as an example, for a project that requires 3,000 online surveys, ninety percent of them should be representative of the general population.  Traditionally, this general population is segmented by income, education, and age. But the remaining ten percent reserved for African Americans is limited to age and isn’t usually segmented by income or education.  Often African American populations aren’t segmented at all.

This lack of thorough minority segmentation isn’t limited to online surveys. I have seen similar omissions in presidential poll research. The White/Caucasian intercept is usually targeted by zip code, age, gender, and income. But the minority segment is often collected haphazardly at best, and not subject to the same segmentation criteria.  Although these issues have been raised repeatedly, few changes have been made across the board.

Systematic Changes In Data Collection Required

While many market researchers claim they’re aware of these problems, they cite time constraints, data blend interference, and an inability to change tracking methodologies as culprits for their lack of action. But these types of misrepresentations are strangely only seen at the macro level when studies require national representation. When market research is solely focused on a minority group (Hispanics, African Americans, etc.), the research tends to be more well-rounded.  

Continuing to supply faulty minority research to your clients is a mistake you can no longer afford to make. Multicultural consumers are a rapidly growing segment of the American population, representing over forty percent of all Americans and roughly $3.9 trillion worth of spending power.

Properly segmenting minority populations is well worth the investment and can help strengthen your relationship with clients by providing them with accurate, comprehensive results. Going forward, you must make inclusive sampling a top priority to remain competitive.  But more importantly, amplifying the voice of multicultural consumers is the right thing to do.


Representative sampling is a crucial aspect of market research, but far too often, we have fallen short in collecting accurate multicultural samples.

To truly stand in alliance with the Black Lives Matter movement, market researchers must analyze data across all racial groups with equal application and equal effort.  At ThinkNow, we offer solutions for better minority sampling practices and are helping clients move away from faulty analysis and skewed data collection.  Every day, new technologies are emerging that signal a shift in thinking within the market researcher community.

I am hopeful that the Black Lives Matter Movement will be the extra push our industry needs to rise to the occasion.