internet poll from cheezburger.com: "communicating with people only via memes would be" awesome/awful

How Do Polls Work?

By now, many of you have no doubt seen more presidential polling results than you ever wanted to see!  But too many people equate internet polls such as the one featured above (from cheezburger.com) with scientific polls conducted by major news organizations.  How can you tell which of them are valid measures of public opinion, and which are not?

Start with Project: Conducting a Poll in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government.  Try it out, and then critically evaluate the results.  Here are some guiding points for questions students should be asking about their data:

  1. What was the difference between the total population of people whose opinion they wanted to know and the number of people who actually answered the poll?
  2. Did people have a choice to take the poll or not?
  3. Could people respond to the poll more than once?
  4. Was one group of people more represented in the poll than another? Why or why not?
  5. How were the questions asked — did they notice they got a better response rate from one method over another, such as internet over in-person?
  6. How were the questions asked — did the questions use loaded language that hinted at the “right” answer?
  7. How were the questions asked — were they yes-or-no, multiple choice, etc.?
  8. and so on…

Then apply this methodology to the polls out there.  Count the differences between this poll from Breitbart (warning: overlay popup ad):

"You watched at home — now make your voice heard! Who won the third debate? Vote below to tell us who you believe was tonight’s winner: Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump"Donald Trump 52.82% (145,324 votes), Hillary Clinton 47.18% (129,785 votes)

 

 

 

 

and these polls, aggregated at RealClear Politics:

polling results from multiple polls

For a deeper dive into how polling works, visit the Pew Research Center’s Methods page.  There, you’ll find all sorts of information, such as how to figure out a poll’s margin of error.  Especially recommended reading: the overview “Flashpoints in Polling” by Claudia Deane, Courtney Kennedy, Scott Keeter and Kyley McGeeney.

UPDATE 12/06/2016: Very nice video from Scientific American explaining the math behind polling.


BulbgraphOnOffStudy questions can be used for formative assessment in the beginning of a lesson or for summative assessment at the end.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Published by

akamran2014

Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

One thought on “How Do Polls Work?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s