During election time, it seems all the public hears about is how good or bad a candidate is faring in the polls. News outlets report it, candidates tweet about it and the public absorbs it. As accurate as the data that come from these polls might seem, online polls are simply not credible.
According to The New York Times, “informal, unscientific ‘polls’ on news sites produce junk data that does not indicate how the public actually feels, and should not be believed as an indication of — well, much of anything.”
There are many issues with online polls conducted by news outlets. First, many news sites producing the polls are partisan in their political stances.
After the first presidential debate, Republican candidate Donald Trump tweeted data that portrayed him as ahead in many polls. His highest approval was shown on news sites such as Breitbart News, PolitOpinion and Patch. Breitbart News is known to be a conservative news outlet, especially since chairman Stephen Bannon is Trump’s campaign CEO. Any number of Breitbart writers, supporters, etc. could have voted numerous times, told others how to vote or even changed the data, all in order to help their candidate. The same possibilities go for left-wing news sites as well.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2016
Another issue with online polls is their inability to reach a completely random audience. These polls are extended toward people who visit the specific news site and decide to participate in the poll. Using Breitbart as an example once more, most of its readers are conservative based on the content they produce. Therefore, most of the participants are going to vote that Trump excelled in the debate, which makes the data solely based on biased opinion.
The final issue is the number of people who actually venture online and participate in these online polls is lower than to be expected. After a scene as intense and messy as the first presidential debate, many people’s first reaction is not to go online and fill out who they believe won. Using myself as an example, the first thing I did after watching the debate was check social media to read everyone else’s reactions. Those in the room with me at the time — about 10 people — did the same. The polls on these sites did not account for the opinions of me nor those 10 people and certainly not for many American citizens.
One more thing to keep in mind is the number of people who use the internet. According to Pew Research Center, 13 percent of adults in the U.S. do not use the internet. Online polls failed to account for this percentage of Americans as well.
Online polls conducted by news sites are not accurate and are often biased in their data. They do not represent America’s opinions properly and should not be considered by voters as they make their decision in the voting booth on Nov. 8.