I saw this sign in Buenos Aires the other day and stopped for a second. Not only do I love the variety of words for bus in Latin America (autobus, colectivo, guagua, and now…omnibus), but omnibus surveys are near and dear to my heart, since I wrote about 6 million of them when I worked in PR agencies.
An omnibus, for those who have not experienced its magic, is a shared cost survey. Individual clients (companies or organizations) can buy as few as 3 questions, which are administered to a representative sample of Americans. Respondents might answer 3 questions about shampoo, then 10 questions about health insurance, then 5 questions about fast food. The results can be used to say things like “56% of Americans can’t swim” (that’s from an omnibus I did for the Red Cross last year) or “82% of US parents say their kids still believe in the tooth fairy.” An omnibus lets you project with a good degree of confidence to “American adults” or “parents in the US” or “US men.”
An omnibus DOES NOT let you project to a specific audience. Luxury car owners in Texas? Left-handed podiatrists? People who work in grocery stores? For these custom audiences, you need a custom survey, which uses large panels to find people who meet particular criteria. A custom survey is frequently more targeted, usually longer, and almost always more expensive than a omnibus. If the omnibus is the bus, the custom survey is the taxi of the research world.
I’ve used omnibuses (omnibi?) largely for publicity purposes (“research for ink,” or doing surveys to get headlines), but they are a viable option for anyone who has a few questions they want to ask of the general public. An omnibus is a quick, affordable, and projectable methodology. Try one sometime– I can help!