Questioning questionable questions. Polls and their pitfalls

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Polls can be an important and useful source of information however, they can be misleading and  the information that comes from them can be easily manipulated. 

One way the information in polls can be manipulated is by polling an area or group of people with a known bias that is relevant to the question being asked. An example would be to have asked a neighborhood of whites that are known to be prejudiced if they believed schools should be integrated during the 1960’s. the information gathered from this would not necessarily reflect the views of all people in that city and definitely would not accurately represent the view of the nation as a whole yet many polls taken in this manner claim to represent a majority view that simply is not accurate. 

Another way that polls can be skewed is in the way a question is worded. There is a difference between asking “Do you think that smokers are endangering the people around them?” and “What are your views on people who smoke in public?”

Using inflammatory language, loaded questions, technical or slang terms can effect how people interpret the question and therefore how they answer it. The comic above shows an example of polls that probably contained some inflammatory words that swayed the answer.

Those who conduct polls should be sure to ask the most correct question to get the information they are looking for.

The last way in which a poll can misrepresent information is if the size of the population that is surveyed is too small or the group is not relevant to what the poll is about. Asking NFL players if they feel that professional athletes are over-payed will probably not yield a response that represents the views of most Americans.

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One thought on “Questioning questionable questions. Polls and their pitfalls

  1. I think last week when we were in class talking about polls we came to the conclusion that they are effective but only if they are done properly. If you have too small of a number for a sample size then your information is going to be skewed. But then we talked about Gallup and how he got very good information on smaller sample sizes. I think polls can be effective when you are polling the correct target market as well as the correct number of people for the thing you are researching. We also talked about how it can be better to go with third party polling places because they are not going to be as biased as the people who are working for each party during the elections.

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