In my 15 plus years covering campaigns I have never quoted an online poll. Not once. Why?
Because online polls can be easily manipulated. A candidate can organize to have their volunteers flood the website. Worse, campaigns can pay people to do it.
One person can vote from a variety of locations with ease. There is no scientific support for online polls. I always quote credible polling information conducted by professionals because, well, it’s their job to get polling correct. If they fail, their reputation dies.
I’m not alone in this assessment. Earlier today, Dana Blanton, the vice president of public-opinion research at Fox News, wrote a pointed memo to members of her newsroom. Many of her on-air colleagues, like Sean Hannity, have been gushing since the debate that Donald Trump has won dozens of online polls.
“The sample obviously can’t be representative of the electorate because they only reflect the views of those Internet users who have chosen to participate,” wrote Blanton in the memo obtained by Business Insider’s Oliver Darcy. “Another problem, we know some campaigns/groups of supporters encourage people to vote in online polls and flood the results. These quickie click items do not meet our editorial standards.”
That is exactly correct, and kudos to Darcy for putting it in writing. Every newsroom should do the same.
When I hear a campaign tout online polls, my first thought is always “I bet they’re behind in real polls.”
With 40 days to go until the election, do not be swayed by any numbers quoted from unscientific online polls.