Out With The Old, In With The New
If you don’t trust mainstream political polling, it turns out that you’re in good company.
According to the Brookings Institute, in the best of circumstances, trusting political polling is appropriate “only with a fair amount of detailed information about how the poll was conducted.”
But to know how a poll is conducted is to necessarily distrust the results.
Consider the traditional polling practice where the polling group uses an auto-dialer to call potential respondents. Federal regulations require that cell phone numbers be dialed by hand, which either eliminates auto-dialing as an option or drastically increases the cost of the polling group by forcing them to hire individuals to dial phone numbers and conduct surveys one by one. In response to such a choice, the polling group will usually choose the least costly route, auto-dialing landlines only. Considering that nearly 75% of the landlines in America are owned by those aged 65 and older, these polls will automatically be skewed by an age bias. Would you trust a poll that overrepresented the elderly?
A natural age bias is but one innocent problem of traditional political polling. Far more nefarious is the partisan political nature of today’s pollsters.
When consumers see the results of a poll on the nightly news, it often reflects group that conducted the poll somewhere along with those results. It is important to note that those polling groups are not conducting the polls out of the kindness of their hearts. Rather, the polling groups are paid to conduct the polls the news network who will eventually show the results.
Whatever your political leanings, this is obviously disconcerting. It’s obvious that media outlets have political bias, and they will probably be hesitant to show the results of a poll that might not comport with the expectations of their viewers. This wedges the polling group between a rock and a hard place. The polling group then is left with two options — either frame their poll questions to achieve the desired results, or stop getting paid by media outlets to run polls. Which do you think the polling group will choose?
So what is the solution, if any, to bad political polling in an era where half of Americans do not trust traditional polls?
A savvy group of young, tech-oriented entrepreneurs is working on answering this question right now.
OpenPoll, a pre-launch startup, plans to use blockchain technology to conduct “decentralized, verifiable, and anonymous” polling. The platform will allow users to answer polling questions via a mobile application, with monetary incentives for each answer. This eliminates the need for partisan parties to hire polling companies at five-figure sums, and allows them instead to send targeted polls directly to demographically diverse (or similar) respondents. In turn, it eliminates the possibility of deliberate manipulation or mischaracterization of polling results.
The model is a direct-to-consumer polling platform that achieves more accurate and rapid responses than any traditional polling method. The elimination of five or six figure sums that media companies or private parties would normally charge the pollsters allows OpenPoll to conduct their polls at a fraction of the cost of a traditional poll. In turn, built into the already-lower cost of the polls is a “surcharge” that allows OpenPoll respondents to be paid answering poll questions. The scenario is a huge win, not only for the pollsters who will be able to obtain answers to essential questions on the cheap, but it is a twofold win for the consumer, who will finally receive accurate polling information, and have the opportunity to get paid to answer polling questions pinged directly to their smartphones.
For the small percentage of industries that have retained the same methodology since the pre-internet days, the probability is high that the industry is ripe for technological innovation. Through OpenPoll, the polling industry will finally move into the 21st century.