TAFS

Created on November, 30 -0001
How long will the current recession last?
3 months   10%
6 months   4%
1 year   25%
2 years   29%
more than 2 years   29%

   Disclaimer about Online Surveys

If you’re not familiar with the standard disclaimers about this type of online poll, I’ll sum it up. The legitimate use of polling requires sticking to some basic principles of survey research. These include ensuring you collect observations from a representative sample of whatever population you want to examine. If you do survey a representative sample you can then generalize from the behavior, attitudes, or demographics of the sample to those of the population they represent. Without explicitly planning for a representative sample you will always get a biased sample.

So the sample collected with my poll, or any web site poll, may be (at best) representative of all the visitors to my site. The polls you see reported in reputable media generally stick to the scientific rules of polling. Web site polls never stick to the rules of polling, because the people “self-select” to participate. So this poll is clearly a subset of the people who come to the web site andyfinn.us. But while you chose to answer the poll, some did not. So a sample that is allowed to “self-select” can give you information about themselves, but you cannot then generalize to a larger population, because the sample is special – it’s not representative of the general population.

The scientific techniques of polling are well-known, agreed-upon, and not usually controversial. But the issue of how to word the questions is always open to debate, and slightly different numbers in similar polls are often due to differences in the wording of the questions. Which brings me to the reasons why my poll is so much better than on other web sites.

Why the TAFS Poll is Better
Did you ever notice that the polls on other sites are usually kind of silly? First, they usually ask a really simple question about a real complex issue – for example, “Was Iraq a mistake?” Then they usually give you two choices – they don’t let you refine your answer much. I call this the “Bush Black & White, Us vs. Them, Good vs. Evil, My Way or the Highway” perspective. My poll allows you to choose from a range of 5 levels of agreement/disagreement. I call this the “Kerry Nuanced not Flip-Flopped, Gray Areas, I Can See Multiple Perspectives” perspective. Or as Orwell might have said in Animal Farm: “Two choices good, 5 choices better.” And while you may argue with the wording of my item, most people find they prefer having a range of choices rather than just two. Now if only it way that way on election day!