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Survey says polls need some explanation



Published: Fri, April 27, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

In a recent poll, 100 percent of Neighbors staff members said they have never tasted a McDonald’s Big Mac or a Burger King Whopper.

Can you believe that — it almost sounds like a mistake. But, it’s true. I have never consumed those sandwiches and I was the only person polled.

That’s an illustration that confirms that when it comes to polls, accuracy and methods are often questionable. Most polls, whether asking opinions on political issues or what toothpaste you use, have a very small sample size. Yet, conclusions are drawn and assumptions made.

From the very beginning of Neighbors, we have presented poll questions in each week’s editions. The topics have varied from school and community issues, national topics, sports or just random questions. I’ve attempted to mix it up a bit when selecting questions. Some of them are on more serious or hot button topics, while others are more “fun” types of questions.

I admit that coming up with the poll questions is one of the tasks I like the least. I prefer editing copy, writing headlines and looking for great story ideas in your communities.

I have received feedback on poll questions we have used in the past. Most of that has been negative. It has ranged from “that is a pointless question” to “I didn’t like the answer options” to “Why are you trying to divide our community?”

Your feedback is very important. This is your newspaper. I do my best to include news, photos and other content that you and your neighbors would like to see. As well, readers are doing a great job sending us story ideas or photos and write-ups that we can use.

I just wanted to take a minute to explain my thoughts regarding polls questions. In my view, the purposes of these questions are all positive. From the jump, we thought that providing a question would give readers an opportunity. We’ve always encouraged you to not only vote on the poll online, but also add comments. It is the hope that these questions can create some dialogue through which residents can discuss, educate, debate and support viewpoints.

Neighbors does not have a traditional “letters to the Editor” section, so commenting on poll questions also gives you a forum to express your opinions.

Poll questions are also sometimes a good way to feel the pulse of a community to see what folks are thinking about certain topics. It’s a curiosity factor made less curious. It’s a “how many people agree with ‘my’ view on this particular topic?”

OK, so here is what Neighbors polls are NOT trying to do. They are not trying to split a community, drive a wedge between two people or groups, or make people mad. Some of you may think that is the intent.

Truth be told, I don’t like conflict. I try not to rock the boat in any part of my life, if at all possible. The world is a better place when people get along.

I understand that polls on hot button topics like school levies or local government salaries are going to bring about strong opinions. And sometimes, the four answers choices will not accurately match your viewpoint. Often, people draw their own conclusions when selecting a response and they may not have all the facts. That means that the numbers may be skewed a bit.

Here’s my point: the polls provide a way for you to express your view - whether it’s by simply voting or also commenting online. They are designed to get people talking about things going on in your town. Without dialogue there can’t be change.

So, be patient with us as we select poll topics. You’ll like some and hate some. But I hope you’ll participate anyway. And don’t just vote — post comments online to offer insight for other voters or explain why you voted the way you did.

If you have poll question topic suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Send me an email at neighbors@vindy.com.


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