Facebook Runs Strange Political News Quiz, Says It Was A Test

Did you get an invite on Facebook to be surveyed about your experiences on the social network, only to find the actual survey turned into a bizarre political news quiz? I did, as did others. Facebook’s now stopped the survey, saying it was an incomplete test that got out into the wild.

Got A Minute To Talk Facebook?

For me, the survey popped up at the top of my newsfeed this way:

I figured Facebook was looking for data to improve its services, and that sure seemed the case as the survey’s first page came up, asking about how satisfied I was with my Facebook experience and the news feed (well, “new feed”):

As you can see, the first page of the survey also got into my news consumption habits. How often did I get news from Facebook’s news feed, from other social media sites like Twitter, from news sites, from news clips, from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, local TV, NPR or newspapers?

Some Questions About Who You Are

Next up were two pages of demographic requests, my race, my education level, the year I was born (something Facebook should know already) and income level:

Let’s Talk Politics

Then there was a turn toward political leanings. How warmly or coldly did I view Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Republicans, Democrats? How did I lean politically?

This section of the survey went on to ask if I planned to vote for US President, and if so, for whom:

These questions felt odd to a Canadian and a Dutch person who were both invited to take the survey. It sure is odd given how Facebook’s advertising system promises such very specific targeting. Why wasn’t this used for the survey?

News Quiz!

Things got odder when a news quiz started. There was no way to opt-out of this, but at least it didn’t pressure us to get things right.

“Don’t bother looking these up on the internet, just answer based on what you already know,” the survey said, before asking if you knew the current US vice president (Biden), which presidential candidate supported allowing illegal immigrants with children to stay in the US (Obama) or if the economy has shrunk 7% in the last three months (it hasn’t):

The quiz went on to ask if you knew which state Mitt Romney had been governor of (Massachusetts), if more troops died in Afghanistan under President Bush than President Obama (Obama) or which company Mitt Romney had been CEO of (Bain Capital, though Google as a choice was kind of cute):

Continuing on, the survey asked where in US Congress the Republican party held a majority (the House), if Romney supports outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest (he doesn’t), and which president signed the TARP act, Bush or Obama (Bush):

Tired of answering news questions? Too bad, because the Facebook survey had still more. What state was Obama a senator for (Illinois); are nearly 60% of all government-subsidized properties in the US occupied by illegal immigrants (no); have a record number of illegal immigrants been deported under Obama (yes):

But wait, as the ads, go, there’s still more. What’s a Super PAC? (group that can have unlimited political donations, see also, Stephen Colbert); did Mitt Romney pay no income tax for a decade? (not true); is Obama a Muslim? (false); who’s the current Supreme Court Chief Justice? (John Roberts):

Finally, the news quiz portion ends. How did you do? Sadly, Facebook doesn’t report a score, but it at least did provide answers to the questions:

Any Questions? Yes, Why Did You Ask Me This?

Then there was one last page for the survey. The key question: “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” The survey also thoughtfully asked if you thought the survey was too long, short or just right, as well as asked for any other comments or questions:

Sure, I had some other comments and questions. How did I start out on a survey purporting to be about my Facebook experience to being quizzed about political news? Who exactly on Facebook got prompted to take this survey? Why is Facebook conducting it? Is it meant to improve Facebook, or was this for some Facebook poll, or did I perhaps stumble into a new form of advertising where Facebook runs consumer surveys as Google does?

Postscript: Look closely at the survey screenshot above. As pointed out to me in the comments on this story below, the instructions (not adjacent to the comment box on the survey) say to only enter as a comment “I read instructions” as proof you’ve read instructions.

I’ve got a message out to Facebook seeking answers to some of these questions. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you do get the survey, be aware that it was at times sluggish for me in processing my answers. Others have reported similar problems.

Postscript: Facebook sent me this:

For a brief period of time, an incomplete test survey was visible to a small percentage of users. This survey has been removed.

I’m not sure what to make of this. The survey was about as long as it promised, so it doesn’t feel like there were parts missing. Instead, it sounds like Facebook may be planning some type of survey product (perhaps for advertisers) or plans to run general surveys for its own purposes in the future, and that this got out with maybe the wrong introduction.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • 4morten

    And the other “funny” thing is that they put the survey available to all the people from any country… is more than a FAIL

  • http://twitter.com/KristiBug Kristi Davis

    Danny – Take a closer look at your last screen shot :) Read the small print…
    “The survey also thoughtfully asked if you thought the survey was too long, short or just right, as well as asked for any other comments or questions:”

    NO, it was actually asking us to put in a specific ANSWER for that portion! It wanted to make sure all the questions were VALID. Completely baffling.

    Sure made me laugh :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lmstar Leslie Star

    I received (and completed) the survey half an hour ago. I’d love to know their reasoning behind it. I believe they were trying to see how ill-informed we are or how much we buy into false ads based on some of the questions. It’s both interesting and irritating, because we have no idea what the intended reason for the survey is.

  • William Brown

    This survey was not about politics, nor was it about how satisfied you are with facebook. I’ll bet the “sluggishness” counted how many times you clicked the next button. The “test” was about something else entirely. I laughed at the end of it, but still wondered what it was for. I did feel like I won though lol.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TEDS7HKQK7OCQOCNGGY36LUZUU L E

    I got the survey and thought it truly weird. (and that is funny William Brown! I thought the same thing about how many times you clicked the next button.)

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Hey, I totally missed that. I guess I figure instructions should be next to the boxes that are supposed to have them :)

  • Dawdlin

    Same thing for me today

  • Pat Grady

    you see, people need encouraging, to talk about politics more at Facebook…

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