Political Scientists Launch Internet Polling Experiment
Date: Oct. 9, 2000
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Archive: Research News
Cincinnati -- An on-line experiment at the University of
Cincinnati hopes to begin breaking down barriers to a promising
new era of fast and inexpensive polling.
Leading up to the
November election, UC's new Internet Public Opinion Laboratory
(I-POL) will be conducting an on-line presidential election poll.
The project explores the issues surrounding how an Internet-based
poll is currently used, and how it could be improved to get an
accurate view of overall public opinion.
telephone-based sampling revolutionized polling in the 1970s,
I-POL researchers believe Internet-based polling has the
potential to take polling to a new level of speed and
"This is a prototype for the future, we believe,"
says George Bishop, UC professor of political science and
director of I-POL. "Down the road, when a much higher percentage
of households have access to the Internet in the same way we now
have access to the telephone, this will be the cost-effective way
to do everything (in polling)."
I-POL's presidential poll is
its first experimental project. The 25-question poll asks for
opinions on candidates and issues relating to this year's
presidential campaign. The poll, which can be accessed on the Web
at www.artsci.uc.edu/poll/ is part of the doctoral work of
political science grad student B.J. Jabbari, who also holds a
master's degree in computer science from UC. I-POL researchers
plan on offering a way to receive the poll's results via e-mail
once the poll is complete.
A more important question for the
researchers is how the results of their sample obtained only over
the Internet compares with traditional opinion research. When the
results match, Internet polling will be ready for prime
"Conservatively, 10 years down the road, we'll be in
position to produce probability samples from people on-line,"
Bishop says. "An ability to get instant reaction to debates and
other political events with representative samples is the
Along with polling becoming faster and less expensive,
Internet polling also has the potential to become more innovative
than contemporary polling. For example, it would be possible to
use multimedia on the Internet instead of just simple text. Those
responding to the poll might see a candidate's picture as well
the questions. Another example could be replaying a segment of a
debate on the Internet and asking poll respondents to react to
that part of the debate.
That will create many more polls,
allowing those who study polling - like Bishop - to more easily
analyze whether a given poll's results are being influenced by
the structure of the questions being asked.
The I-POL project
is a part of UC's Center for the Study of Democratic Citizenship.