Open-source polling

The Times today reports on YouGov, the online polling company that has grown big in the UK (big enough for its founder, Stephan Shakespeare, to fund conservative online talk network 18DoughtySt to the tune of $2 million). It’s a sensible model: rather than polling the way pollsters have since the 1940s, online panels are used. The proof is in the predictions; if the data is good, why not gather it a new way?

But I think this should get opened up further. Two years ago, I wrote a post begging for someone to start an open-source polling operation: the wikipedia of polls. It would have controls against manipulation that enforce reliability — again, the proof is in the predictions. But it’s god’s work, for polling is too expensive and too limited to the powerful who want to ask their questions and too inaccurate about what we really care about. I say that if we could easily poll people about, say, indecency, we could counter the assertions of pressure groups that there’s an outcry — sufficient to threaten the First Amendment — when, in fact, there is no such outcry, only media spin and hype. Imagine if any of us could truly take the pulse of the nation or a community. That would have a positive impact on civil discourse and democracy — and commerce — and would be a counterweight to PR, political, and pressure-group spin.

Here, again, is my prescription for how I think it should be done. And here‘s an article by far-more-knowledgeable Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal with his prescription for open-source polling.

  • Greg0658

    I’m in favor of this prescription. We need real involvement in social issues, not betting on a adminsitration of promises.

    Jeff writes in April 2005 – It must defeat gaming: This is the killer. The obvious fear is that Republicans will masquerade as Democrats, or vice versa, to fake the results …

    I say – This is a major aspect of todays news, heres our spin, join us won’t you, and probably with a one sided take folks will.

    A true election site with all spins presented, the gaming killer wouldn’t have a chance, short of lies presented and believed. It would be nice if the site had a truthy index, and a favored index to grade comments for sanity.

    The big item is security and one vote to an individual or company.

  • This is very important and powerful. “Smart Mobs”, collective wisdom, I think it’s also called “crowdsourcing” is a fundamental disruptive source that will impact all areas, politics included.

    Enjoyed this read.

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  • “if the data is good, why not gather it a new way?”

    I seem to remember my statistics classes the other way round: The quality of data is determined by the way it is gathered. The bits about the controversy over YouGov’s methodology are the important bits of that Times article.

  • How much money would be spent by the US government on aids prevention in Africa if the issue was decided by universal plebiscite? Supposing the people of Texas voted in favor of public executions?

  • Greg0658

    plebiscite = voting on a subject

    Should a indebt nation be helping another? I vote yes, to a point.
    I like to believe barbaric behavior would cease and desist eventually.

  • I like to believe in fairies.


  • Jeff,

    In this direction we are going to release next week in Cape Town, during the presentation of opur 2007 INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS Global Report, the results of our first Harris/Innovation newspaper readership online poll.

    Harris Interactive have done these online panels in the past and our poll is a good example of those possibilities.

    We did the survey among a total of 6,520 adults (aged 16 and over), within France (1,125), Germany (1,133), Great Britain (1,006), Spain (995), the United States (1,134), Australia (976) and 1,122 adults (aged 18 and over) in Italy, between May 2 and 14, 2007.

    More in the next hours at

  • I created something like that before the last elections, please take a look and let me know what you think…


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