Elections and public polling: Will the media get online polling right?



Public survey research came in for much criticism during the 2000 elections. The greatest controversy centered on the flawed data coming from the Voter News Service exit polls in Florida. For the long run, however, a more important issue concerned the validity and media reporting of surveys conducted online. Most online surveys are pseudo-polls, whose findings have no merit and should not be reported by the media. Their value is entertainment only. The fundamental problems with online surveys are that the samples drawn are unrepresentative of the population as a whole and the participants are self-selected. Two survey firms are trying to resolve the issue of sampling errors, using fundamentally different strategies, and spending enormous sums of money to create truly representative panels. The 2000 election results showed that online polling, done right, can be even more accurate than traditional telephone surveys. © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.