Online Polls

Written by Tara Peris
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Despite their growing popularity, online polls are tricky territory to navigate. In particular, a number of factors to converge to create pressing methodological issues, few of which are easily resolved. This is turn creates climate in which shoddy online research proliferates and good online polls are few and far between.

The growing popularity of online polls is somewhat self-evident. You cannot read, or indeed listen to the news without being bombarded by the results of the most recent poll. Surveys span every subject, and they pop up on the Internet in every conceivable place. Yet they are not all alike, and their results are never to be taken at face value.

Scientifically Sound Online Polls

In order to produce meaningful results, online polls must adhere to a few basic procedures. First, they must take measures to prevent people from responding more than once. Often, this is achieved by requiring some form of sign-in information such as an email account. However, as anyone with more than one email account knows, this is not necessarily and effective measure.

In addition to ensuring the legitimacy of the data, researchers who conduct online polls must also find a way to preserve the confidentiality of participant responses. The minute you ask for an identifying piece of information such as an email account, you make it possible to link answers to respondents, and thus, violate basic privacy rules. These are tricky issues to navigate, but savvy investigators address them head on in the name of conducting sound research.


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