Polls: Do They Mean Anything?

opinion-polls-quote

On Facebook, public figures, celebrities and organisations create ‘Pages’, these are different to the normal accounts of everyday folk.

‘Page Likes’ are done by those who want updates from those Pages to appear on their own timelines/walls, usually because they either like the person/organisation or have an interest in what is shown on the Page.

This is a very similar concept to ‘Follows’ on Twitter; they are an indication of the popularity of the subject of the page.

‘Page Likes’ are different to the ‘likes’ to be found under each individual post, just as clicking ‘hearts’ on Twitter is different to ‘Following’.

Both Page Likes and Follows can be seen as indicators of popularity and, as mentioned by some in response to a post of mine on Twitter, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber do seem, for whatever reason, to be very popular.

So, more Page Likes or more Followers and you are perceived as being more popular.

Voting Intention Polls are also, for the most part, just indicators of popularity. Pollsters ask a number of their poll site members/participants to take part in a survey, they pose questions in the way most likely to get the outcome they want, they weight the results according to the required demographic criteria and publish if they get what they wanted. The more honest publish whatever the result. Others somehow ‘lose’ data.

What they can never know about their participants is why they signed up to the survey/poll site. Was it:

  1. Because they just like doing surveys.

  2. Because it’s their way of feeling involved in decision making (most polling sites tell you this – “Give your opinion and make a difference”).

  3. Because the survey site gives incentives like prizes or money (or both).

They also don’t know how truthful or how motivated their participants are:

  1. Do they vote by Party or person

  2. Do they vote on national or local issues

  3. Is their vote influenced by whether they like one candidate more than another or whether they like the candidate standing for their ‘usual’ Party or not.

  4. Do they actually vote or do they just like to talk about politics.

Taking all these things into account, and recognising that most poll site owners see polls more as a way of influencing opinion (through publication) than as a way of measuring opinion, then Facebook and Twitter stats are probably more honest. At least the person Following or Liking a Page is showing some true interest.

Polls do not always translate into votes, as we have seen in some recent events such as the Referendum and the Labour Party leadership election. Both life, and people, are often unpredictable.

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