Share

Alternatively titled “Poll Results Show Nearly Everyone Won’t Take Polls!”

At the beginning of September I added polling to The LinkedIn Personal Trainer blog site – and created a post begging for responses with an innovative poll that attempted to offer an answer (to a yes or no question) that nearly everyone could respond to.

The results are shocking! Shocking I tell you!

Plenty of views

The good side is that my software is able to tell me with great accuracy that the post in question was delivered to no less than 252 viewers.

I say “no less” because in today’s world of cached content, one viewer from a service provider like Comcast may have requested the page (and been properly counted), but the next several may not have contributed to the count – when Comcast offers up the cached page.

In any case – that’s a goodly number – and statistically valid too…-)

The Answers

With these new-fangled blog sites, I can display the answers with nifty graphics, and I don’t want to leave you in suspense.

The Question: Do you frequently participate in polls?

The Great LinkedIn Personal Trainer Poll Poll Results Slide 1

And there you have it – fifteen people out of twenty four frequently participate in polls, that’s 62.5%, a significant majority.

Looking at the answers

I’ll admit to asking a question that could be interpreted in many ways – what if someone “infrequently” participates in polls?  How might they respond?

But let’s not worry about that as poll takers have used slanted questions in the US since the days when supporters for George Clinton went around asking “Do you think George Washington should be our first president even though he admitted to chopping down the cherry tree?”

So let’s have a look at the answers…

  • Yes – I enjoy expressing my opinion. (43%, 10 Votes)

This is clearly the most popular answer, and represents the view of a significant number of poll takers.  Since poll takers are responsive, their opinion is heard.

  • No – The results are irrelevant and useless. (13%, 3 Votes)

Here’s the leading view of the dissenters – just what can you expect from a poll?

  • Yes – I find polls very interesting & informative. (8%, 2 Votes)

This would be the “echo” of the most popular above – I participate not because I really like expressing my answer, but because by participating, we get to see useful information.

  • Yes – Sometimes they show results in these neat colored pie thingies. (8%, 2 Votes)

This was unexpected – I’m going to go with the thought that these individuals liked the yes response, but not for any of the other reasons. (But to pander to their answer, you’ll notice that I have included a pie graph in this post;-)

  • No – Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics & Polls. (8%, 2 Votes)

This is the angry reader’s “echo” to the opposition above.  Polls can be used to convey nearly anything – even the same poll with the same data. (And frankly, they have a point;-)

  • No – They’re self selecting, overused, and overhyped… (8%, 2 Votes)

This would be the other angry reader’s “echo”, but it speaks to the environment where everyone is telling everyone else what everybody is thinking!  Next thing you know the media will be letting us know that poll results reveal that most people like ice cream.

  • No – Those polls are always biased. (4%, 1 Votes)

And let’s not leave out the angry cynic’s response.

It was a stretch of my imagination to come up with so many different ways of saying that polls can’t be trusted, and I’m actually proud to have divided that vote out among the answers…

  • No – You never know what information they’re storing, or how they’ll use it, or who they’ll give it to… (4%, 1 Votes)

This answer goes back to the days when consumers discovered that there was a secret “code” on their questionnaire that positively identified them out of all of the other responses.  Consumers have distrusted these sorts of things ever since.

I have a great deal of respect for the individual that responded this way. You see they’ve overcome their fear that I will contact their internet provider and start an investigation…  (But really, it’s ok, I found out that they used a computer in the library to answer the poll)

  • Yes – I like to give fake opinions! (4%, 1 Votes)

This is a great answer – and a bit of a paradox.  Do I take their answer as a no because they’ve admitted to giving false answers, or is this a partial truth teller who can lie only most of the time?  I’m not sure which door I should open – and I don’t really want to get eaten today!

  • Yes – I need to know which side to take. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • No – I don’t care what anyone else thinks. (0%, 0 Votes)

Thankfully neither impressionable people nor hermits have viewed the poll!

  • Yes – Great fun to sit around taking polls on a Saturday night! (0%, 0 Votes)

This answer was mostly humor as I had to make the same number of Yes and No responses – I could think of lots of ways that people might not participate in a poll, but only a few why they would want to answer a poll.

Sunny with a chance of Yes

So right about now, the poll taking crowd is feeling pretty good. They’ve overwhelmed the smaller crowd of people who took a poll saying that they don’t regularly take polls. (And hopefully they’ll see the irony of beating people that normally don’t even participate)

I’d like to have a nice round of appreciation for everyone that answered the poll! (click here if you’re one of those responders and you’d like to hear some applause)

Statistics – round two

And so – I’d like to now take the other position – the one where I prove the complete opposite of the points made above by revealing more information. (Actually, I revealed it way up at the top of the post, but now it’ll be in a pretty picture…)

If we consider the number of responses of people that answered the poll to the number of people that read the article, it becomes clear that 91% of people refuse to take part in online polls!

The Great LinkedIn Personal Trainer Poll Poll Results Slide 2

And so – we really are left with no idea what most people do. Actually – we do know what they did on this poll.  Even with my efforts begging them to respond, most people wouldn’t click…

Statistical validity

I’m a believer in both statistics and probability – and will agree with anyone suggesting that a specific polling process that is designed and carried out properly can give a true “representative view” of a population by only sampling a small subset.

But let’s be fair in talking about these things, ok?

Your average poll has not been designed to be fair, it’s just a bunch of questions thought up by well meaning people. (And some actually do intend that their “poll” sway the poll takers – I know I’ve shocked you again, but that’s just the way it is…)

And then in the “taking” of the poll, only those people that become aware of the poll have a chance at taking it, and only those motivated to respond will participate – so it isn’t a very good sampling process either.

And lastly, the example of how I was able to easily manipulate the answers shows how a poll can be used to make a single point – or its opposite – without too much effort.

But they’re fun!

As the blogger on the site, it did not pass my notice that the great poll poll post received many more comments than any of my other posts.

So apparently humans have some fascination with polls…

Participation and feedback

It probably has to do with the potential to influence the larger environment – a poll is a direct, reasonably easy, simple form of feedback.

I’m going to continue with them but with the understanding that if one to two percent of readers ever comment, only ten percent will participate in a poll, and the answers have to be taken as just one data point.

(and btw – there is a new poll up over there to the right;-)

To your continued success,
steve

Steven Tylock
http://www.linkedinpersonaltrainer.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevetylock