Monday, 11 May 2015

When is a Poll not really a Poll? When just asking, alters the results!

I worked in politics for a few years. As part of that effort I designed and managed the on-line portion of a few provincial election campaigns in Ontario. |In each campaign I was involved in, "the Team" would pay particular attention to the ongoing polls. And each time, after the election was complete, the result didn't reflect the ongoing polling at all. Why?

It's likely because the polling methods for the most part, are out of date. Ever get a phone call from a polling firm just as you're sitting down for supper? You're not alone.

So what do you think the likelihood is that you're going to achieve any degree of accuracy, when most of your data comes from people willing to talk to you on their home phone in exchange for sitting down to a meal?

"Just keep calling until we get a thousand responses", is the instruction given to telephone callers. 

It's old technology using old "top down" thinking. Just like the ambush interview you get outside your grocery store or on your doorstep. How can the results be valid in any way? And more to the point, how can we continue to give credence to this polling approach in the 21st century.

The UK just had an election where David Cameron and the Conservative Party were the majority winners. But that wasn't suppose to happen according to the polls. In the days and minutes leading up to the election the media was claiming that it was a dead heat and the election result could be an unstable government and perhaps another election could be called before the year was out.

Lots of predictions by those, who you would think are far more "in the know" than you and I. But almost all were incorrect. Was the problem the same as I had experienced in Ontario? Out of date polling methods. It seemed so. In this case the constituents didn't want to show their hand prior to the election. The polling process couldn't get the data out of them.

On the other hand, Alberta just finished a provincial election with the NDP coming out on top. And what do you know, it was predicted. Vote Compass called it. Public opinion and media dismissed the prediction, suggesting the 40+ year reign of the Tories would carry on.

Days before the election predicted the NDP would finish third.

So what's the difference with Vote Compass?

The difference is bottom up participation.

Vote compass has created an app that engages the participant and provides immediate feedback. This is no supper time phone call. This is bottom up thinking at it's best and a great example of how we should be thinking in business. It is an unobtrusive and a rewarding experience.

Get people involved by giving them the control. Vote Compass gives the constituent the control. The constituent can pick the time and place they take part. They work at their own speed. And in the end they learn something. Perfect! Now we're polling. Now we're getting reliable data.

Now we are working with our audience, not at our audience.

This is the point. Whether you are managing political, consumer, or any other kind of polling, you need to recognize that your polling method has great impact on the results. And if you're impact the results are they really worth anything.

Canada has a federal election coming up this fall, and the US has theirs next year. I hope that with all the money that get's spent on elections (much more so in the States) someone will spend a few bucks and take the time to educate the media and the public that not all polls are created equal.

In fact if a poll is conducted in an intrusive format like phone calls or ambush interviews, it is systemically inaccurate and should be ruled inadmissible in the "court of public scrutiny".

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