Online Polling Tools Rarely Give Good Data

Online polling tools produce misleading results and only a brief increase in site audience. They should be used rarely and carefully.

Online pollingOnline polling tools surged in popularity after they were first developed and remained in vogue for a number of years. But they have faded for good reason.

They don’t have any credibility, and many people know it.

One problem lies with the ability of someone to vote multiple times and skew the results.

Using cookies to block them from voting more than once helps slow people who don’t know how to delete cookies. But many people do.

The second problem is the makeup of the audience that completes the poll.

If the online polling tool has a question about politics, can it capture the voters’ political affiliations or whether they are liberal, conservative or moderate?

The answer usually is no unless the voters have personal profiles with that information available. Even then, the results will not have a balanced cross section of voters from each party or ideology. Results from 300 Republicans and 20 Democrats will provide good data.

Online Polling Tools = Skewed Results

Sites that use online polling tools end up reporting skewed results as if they were a factual representation of an issue.

But it soon becomes clear when one political candidate received 100,000 votes and another received 100 that the numbers can’t be trusted. Those kinds of results show that some people are monkeying with the poll.

Online polling provides a modest amount of value when used with questions about casual matters. But then the results on casual questions are typically low, which makes an online staff wonder why it should do polling at all.

Controversial questions produce the most participation and the least credibility at the same time.

Polling on a Web site should be used sparingly and never reported as being credible. It is simply an amusing tool. There are better ways for a staff to use its time and energy to increase a site audience.

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