Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Online polls. Seriously?

"Online poll sends message to Brumby" was the headline on theage.com.au last Friday, followed by the rather startling results of a Victorian election poll, showing the Coalition on 40% support, the Greens on 36% and the Labor party trailing badly on 18%. This seemed odd, given that the Labor party have led every poll I can remember since they came to power over a decade ago, and the Greens never get more than about 15%. What had suddenly changed so much?
An online poll on theage.com.au has sent a message to the Brumby government, with Labor heavily trailing both the Coalition and the Greens.
An online poll? On theage.com.au? This is newsworthy?

I find them incredibly irritating, but The Age loves online polls; it feels like every second article has a poll attached. A quick glance just now shows the following polls linked from their front page
  • Which party will get your vote in the November 27 Victorian State Election? (still there, 40,000 votes later, with Labor still on 18%)
  • Do you support Labor's plan to send Year 9 students away from home for two weeks? (50:50)
  • Do how-to-vote cards influence where you send your preferences? (No)
and from the story of the day
  • Should Steve be disciplined for his actions? (No)
The Age rightly adds the following disclaimer to each of these polls
These polls are not scientific and reflect the opinion only of visitors who have chosen to participate.
Polls like this serve no purpose other than to give readers the opportunity to participate in some kind of debate, or at least give them the impression that they are participating. They do not even necessarily represent the opinion of the general readership of the site. Poll crashing; when a well-known blogger or such instructs their (potentially) tens of thousands of readers to vote in a particular way, en masse, can devestate polls. Essentially, online polls are a bit of fun for those that are into that kind of thing. There is, however, no excuse for publishing them in an article as if they have a bearing on the coming election.
While not a scientific survey of voters' intentions on November 27, the results of the online poll will concern many Labor supporters as the party attempts to gain a record fourth term in government. 
Tomorrow's edition of The Age will feature the latest Nielsen poll, which will give a clear indication of the thoughts of the voting public.
These results are meaningless but we just wanted to scare you a bit, ha ha. Oh, and don't forget to buy our paper tomorrow. I guess they had to do something while they waited an entire day for the results of the real, scientific poll. And what did the latest Nielson poll show? Labor 38%, Coalition 40%, Greens 16%, with Labor leading the Coalition 52% to 48% on a two-party preferred basis.

Professional pollsters use sophisticated techniques to ensure that those they poll cover a representative cross-section of the electorate. Online polls require that participants have the ability to click on a small, round button. They don't even need to know how to read.

I think the best thing we can all do is just ignore these online polls, and they will, quite literally, go away. But this is just my opinion. What do you think? Have your say in the comments, or vote now on the poll on the right.

1 comment:

Jonathan Trott said...

I found your post comments while searching Google. Very relevant especially as this is not an issue which a lot of people are conversant with.
Online Survey