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Today my wife and I got a letter from the Pew Research center with a with a $2 bill enclosed. The survey has a link to the website: http://pewresearchstudy.com with a password, asking the youngest female in the household to take a survey. I'm a little speculative on the legitimacy of this survey and why they would give out free money in the mail.

Has anyone encountered these types of letters before? Is this a scam or a legitimate survey with real money being sent to us?

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    Just wondering—how could it possibly be a scam? They sent you cash in the mail. Where could the scam be? – user428517 Nov 25 '19 at 21:10
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    I wonder what they want to know from all those infants that fit the selection criterion, and how they’d interpret whatever responses they get. – Lawrence Nov 25 '19 at 21:13
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    This is a rarity; an "is this a scam?" post on money.se.com that is not a scam! – Eric Lippert Nov 25 '19 at 21:46
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    A few years ago my wife got a $2 bill with a US Department of Labor survey. That a Jefferson $2 is noteworthy is I think part of the charm. – user662852 Nov 26 '19 at 1:15
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    While in High School I worked for a legitimate research firm as a phone surveyor. Twas a perilous time to be one. Telemarketers were at their peak because the Do-Not-Call list had not yet been instituted. Some of us would make hours of calls and not get a single survey taker because everyone believed we were trying to sell them something. The most desperate of companies would offer sizable sums for people to take their surveys. I think the same skepticism persists today and people are quite hesitant to answer surveyors. That $2s is how they are trying to communicate they want your opinion. – RLH Nov 26 '19 at 14:39
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It's probably legitimate.

https://www.pewresearch.org/methods/2019/02/27/growing-and-improving-pew-research-centers-american-trends-panel/

a letter of introduction inviting recipients (and specifically, the adult in the household with the next upcoming birthday) to take the online survey, information about how to take the survey, $2 in cash as a pre-incentive and a promise of a $10 post-incentive for completing the survey.

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    FWIW my university did the same thing asking me to donate. I've also received 50 cents from Feed the Children or a similar charity. – MooseBoys Nov 24 '19 at 18:49
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    For what it's worth Nielsen does this for their media surveys, too. – reirab Nov 24 '19 at 19:08
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    Is this now officially a new candidate for money.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2542/…? – user17915 Nov 25 '19 at 2:02
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    Althoigh you might want to check ownership of that domain (for example, whether pewresearch.org and pewresearchstudy.com are owned by the same organization). – Nobody Nov 25 '19 at 14:16
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    To confirm re: Nielsen, they do send the $5 after you complete the survey. – Byron Wall Nov 25 '19 at 16:33
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They send money to guilt you in to responding.

Charities use this tactic too but usually with less incentive, a penny, nickle or quarter. Pew must really want a response...

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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Every time I go to the bank, I ask for as many $2 bills as I can get. It's just so much fun to watch people's reactions when I use them... – Moshe Katz Nov 25 '19 at 5:59
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    The reason they really want a response is because they want the results of the survey to accurately describe the random sample, rather than to accurately describe people who are likely to respond to surveys. Non-responses aren't merely non-helpful, they're potentially harmful to the survey. – pip install frisbee Nov 25 '19 at 16:44
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    @Mast they still print them, but not every year. They printed over 153 million $2 bills in Fiscal Year 2019, and 57 million of those were in September. There will not be any printed in 2020 though, and the last printing before this year was in 2016 (179 million bills). – Moshe Katz Nov 25 '19 at 18:29
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    The set of people who will respond to the survey if given a "pre-incentive" is just as likely to be a skewed sample as the set of people who will respond without an incentive. It might be a larger sample, but it won't be any more random. – Michael Kay Nov 26 '19 at 13:50
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    It's also a form of proof that they'll pay the $10 participation fee. The cost of sending $2 to a bunch of people is expensive enough that they're probably also willing to spend $10 on the people who actually respond. On the other hand, sending me a "get a free $10" mail without $2 means I'll just assume that it's a rabbit-hole of garbage, since people constantly promise me free stuff and only rarely deliver. Also, sending money is an incredibly effective way to set your mailing apart, in terms of justifying the cursory effort of reading it. – Brian Nov 26 '19 at 14:12
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Your information is worth something to them. They're giving you part of that value in order to get the information. This is right, good, fair and not a scam.

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  • Welcome to the site, Steve. Please consider improving your answer by adding some references, e.g. to a statement from Pew that they do this. – Rupert Morrish Nov 25 '19 at 20:57
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    Rather, they're giving OP the money in the hope that they get the information in return. OP can keep the money either way. (I wonder how many people send the money back) – smci Nov 26 '19 at 10:16
  • @smci You'd be surprised how much more compliant people are when they feel that it's their choice. – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Nov 26 '19 at 11:17
  • @TomášZato: please send me $10,000 so we can test that... – smci Nov 26 '19 at 11:28
  • not only is it their choice, their assent has already been assumed. while they don't expect you to mail $2 back if you don't do the survey, giving you $2 in exchange for the survey before you actually do it makes a lot of people feel like the only fair thing to do is to do the survey. – Steve Gazzo Apr 9 at 20:32
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A complement to @Ron John answer.

It is legit As according to this third party article : Did you get $2 in the mail from Pew Research Center? Heres the deal.

It is not an expensive practice, indeed, the postage alone already cost $0.50 and the printout and cash enclose process cost more than $0.30. So the $2 is just a fraction of the survey cost. Here is a research paper talking about pre-paid cash as an attraction for survey responses.

In addition, whether you like it or not, a non-reply will give another set of demography for the neighbourhood (thus the reply or no-reply is already a survey).

Nevertheless, an extremely high non-reply will also mean : i. The neighbourhood are free loader, ii. not many people stay in the neighbourhood iii. something wrong within the mailing process (It is instant cash by intercepting all such mail)

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