I’d like to thank everyone for responding. I took my question here and to twitter, and I received much better response here. My thanks to everyone.
The discussion of neutral opinions has been enlightening, but the issue of data incompatibility if we were to switch response options still seems to outweigh the potential benefits.
One thing I am trying to keep in mind when considering next steps is the idea of ‘sunk costs,’ from my PMP training. Basically, if using neutral answers does not meet the client’s needs, then the two years of data we have thus far should be considered a sunk cost, and should not be considered when planning the way forward. But, if the client’s needs – truly understanding the full range of perception in the surveyed population – don’t match with the client’s desires – having less ambiguous data to make decisions based on – then the past survey data is still very valuable.
In our situation, I believe the client needs to see the unfiltered data as well as the ‘neutral excluded’ view. I believe potential ambivalence and disenfranchisement need to be considered. Removing neutral options seems to be very valid for certain purposes, but I think our best course of action is:
- Continue the survey as is, but provide neutral-excluded calculations in addition to current calculations. This will provide the client with another view of the data without sacrificing our existing work, and we can use the existing data to provide neutral-excluded calculations from the past two years.
- Discuss with the client the validity of neutral opinions, possible conclusions which can be drawn from ambivalent opinions, and possible routes for further exploration.
Of course, the decision is not mine alone. I am simply making a recommendation. My thanks again to everyone who helped me form this recommendation.