Politicians have been using them for decades, even Donald Trump has boastfully tweeted about their results, so why wouldn’t you give straw polls a shot as well? Before making an important move or decision, it’s always wise to gauge the popular opinion on the issue.
Still, the year is 2019 and straw polls have become somewhat outdated. If you’ve got no time to spare and need a quick check of your audience’s pulse, an online political survey might just be the right thing for you.
Conducting a political survey will enable you to make a more informed political decision or confidently proceed with the one you’ve already made.
But how did we use to do political surveys in the past? A bit about straw polls.
The first political surveys were actually straw polls
A straw poll is an unofficial or ad-hoc vote that tells you what’s the public opinion on a given issue. According to the dictionary entry, the origin of the idiom “straw poll” may allude to “a straw (thin plant stalk) held up to see in what direction the wind blows, in this case, the wind of group opinion.”
More importantly, to our topic here, straw polls are most often associated with politics. Before the introduction of modern political surveys, politicians had used straw polls to measure popular attitudes and opinions. In the United States, political straw polls became particularly popular in the early 20th century as a means of predicting the presidential election results.
Let’s travel a bit back in time, to the year of 1936. Prior to that year’s US presidential election, The Literary Digest conducted one of the biggest political polls in history, which polled 10 million people, out of which 2.4 million actually responded.
According to its results, Alf Landon was supposed to become the President of the United States, with 57% of votes. Does anybody remember President Landon? Of course not. Why? He never won the elections, meaning that one of the biggest polls ever was spot on wrong. What went wrong?
The Literary Digest poll was sent out to all the people whose information could be found in telephone books and motor vehicle registries. So, why was there a discrepancy between the results and the actual representation of the voters’ opinion?
The fact is that during the Great Depression in the US, many Americans didn’t actually own phones and cars, which is why they were never even consulted in this poll. As it turned out the majority of the non-consulted were in favor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who got elected that year with 62% of the votes.
Back to the present. Even though some political candidates still use straw polls to check the pulse of the nation and later use the obtained data to revise their campaign strategy, most of them have decided to ditch straw polls for online political surveys.
Nowadays, a typical political survey sample includes around 1,000 people, which seems insignificant compared to the Literary Digest’s 2.4 million people polled. Still, modern political surveys rarely get it so wrong as the 1936 poll did. How come? First and foremost, it’s much easier to get the sampling type and size right using an online survey.
In addition to that, here are some more reasons why you need to ditch straw polls and use an online political survey instead,
Why you should be using political surveys
1. Find backers for your political campaign or cause
You can send out political surveys to party members, constituents, representatives, donors, and sponsors to get information about who are the more likely ones to support you. You can also use the political survey results to fine-tune your marketing efforts so as to reach and nurture your supporter’s base.
2. Get feedback from (potential) voters
Use it to poll voters and find out more about their party affiliations. You can also get feedback on what problems or concerns they’re having, how satisfied they are with local infrastructure, national economy, or foreign affairs. Or whether they’re satisfied with the current leadership and what they would like to change.
3. Organize a political event
Looking to plan and organize a political event? You can use a political survey to mobilize volunteers, distribute invitations, or gather information about attendees. After the event, you can use a post-event survey to collect feedback and use it to improve your future events.
4. Conduct political research
You can use a political survey to do political science research. Whether you’re working on a research paper, Master’s thesis, case study, or just trying to measure any type of political sentiment, you should consider conducting a survey.
For example, you can use it to gather Brexit reactions, measure how recent legislative actions affected the everyday life of people in a particular region, or discover the buzz about the recent political changes.
5. Just for fun
In the age when many politicians’ main concern is how to get more followers on Instagram, many people see politics as a joke. That’s why there are so many jokes about politics and politicians. That being said, you can use a political survey simply for fun – whether it is to find out if your friends are right or left wing, whether they support Trump or Clinton, or which politician they would take out for dinner.
How to create a reliable political survey
Choose your sample size and type wisely
Don’t make the same mistake the Literary Digest made in 1936 – keep in mind the diversity of your voters and try to design your political survey so as to cater to the majority of them.
Use a compelling design to your advantage
When creating a political survey, pay special attention to the design – choose a clear font and an adequate color scheme. If you decide to use image questions, you can make a political survey more visually appealing and, more importantly, you can clarify the answer options to the survey takers.
For example, some voters may not know political candidates by their name but are familiar with their appearance or the party they belong to. So, displaying the candidates’ photos or their political party’s logo may solve that problem.
Keep it short
Think short and sweet – you don’t want to put off potential takers by asking for too much information or by making the survey too long. Often, just one or two survey questions are enough to help you find out more about the issues that matter the most to both you and your respondents.
Keep it anonymous
When it comes to sensitive topics such as politics, people are more likely to take a survey and provide honest answers if it’s kept anonymous. Whether anonymous or not, make sure to let them know exactly how their data will be handled.
Come up with quality political survey questions
When creating a political survey, asking clear and precise questions is vital.
As words tend to sway people, you’d want your question to be as unbiased as possible. For instance, in the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence, the initial question “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” was rephrased to “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Why?
Due to a phenomenon inherent in the human nature, referred to as the acquiescence response bias, poll takers tend to agree with such “do you agree” questions more often than disagree, regardless of the content. People generally don’t like disagreeing, which is why it’s always better to ask unbiased questions that are not misleading in any way – at least if you want to get the results that are as objective as possible.
When it comes to straw polls, there is also the danger of a first-listing bias phenomenon, where the candidate who is listed first is likely to gain a greater number of votes than the second one. In order to prevent that from happening, you should try randomizing the answers as much as possible.
Political survey template
To help you get everything right, we have created an easily-customizable political survey template for you to use with a single click. The best thing? It’s completely FREE for all active LeadQuizzes users.
Just click on the button below, log in to your account, and start using this template. Or choose another one from our long list of versatile survey, quiz, and form templates.
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Whatever your reason for conducting a political survey, it’s always useful to know which way the wind of public opinion blows. Knowing that will not only let you have better insight into the current state of the affairs but also enable you to make more informed political decisions.