Sacramento Weekly World News & Review

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Online Polls: Public Opinion or Data Collection?

I hope we all know that online polls don't represent public opinion but rather show how people with too much free time on their hands, an internet connection, and no idea how pointless online surveys are feel about whatever is being asked. I also know that the media outlets that offer these polls, especially those that cater to a particular ideology, know enough about polling that they don't expect to get a true measure of public opinion. So what exactly is the point of these online polls?

My theory is based on little evidence, but when has that ever stopped anyone with a blog? Anyway, I believe these polls are used to get us to visit the outlet's website and become more emotionally attached to the station or newspaper and hopefully click on some ad links while we're there, but also, to collect data on respondants. This data can then be used to adjust programming and maybe even advertising.

KTKZ is nice enough to post all of its prior polls online. The questions they ask are generally about politics, but here's a look at a few of the other KTKZ online poll questions:

Who do you listen to the most on "News Talk 1380 KTKZ"?
How many times will you listen to the River Cats on 1380 KTKZ this summer?
What time will you listen to Paul Harvey on 1380 KTKZ?

The current Sports 1140 Poll question on the KHTK website is "Who should be given the opportunity to act as the Rise Guys weatherperson?"

If "Who cares?" is your response, you win! KHTK actually did have that as an option. If you don't care, why would you even bother answering the online poll in the first place? I guess I should ask those 12%.

Anyway, on both websites, these polls are mixed with the kind of questions you would expect; KTKZ questions are generally loaded questions about right-wing politics and KHTK usually posts polls about sports. While the questions above are blatantly for programming purposes it makes me wonder whether there is some useful information gained by the stations from all the poll questions on their websites. Just something for all you online-poll-answering suckers to think about.

One last thing, online poll results are usually given in percentages, but the Bee gets a gold star for actually showing how many people voted. This means I not only know that 7% of the respondents of todays question selected "Hot and sour" as their favorite soup, but that since only 15 people voted, that 7% is one person.

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