Imagine this scenario: There’s less than a week before Election Day and you pick up a copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or any local paper, even the lowly Metro. You notice that an online poll shows your choice for presidential candidate is trailing by 5 percent. Immediately you begin unnecessarily panicking, believing that the world will come to an end or that the sky will fall. Before you jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge take two or three minutes to read this editorial.
Online polls mean nothing. That’s right. Online polls mean absolutely nothing. They’re for entertainment purposes. Nothing about these polls is scientific.
As we all know, the minimum voting age in the United States is 18. But what’s to stop a 12-year-old kid who can’t vote from logging on to CNN.com or ABCNews.com or CBSNews.com and making his choice for president? What’s to stop him from asking his entire junior high school to participate in online polls?
Some Web sites also allow people to vote over and over again without keeping track of how many times one person votes. Who knows? Maybe 85 percent of Americans want to make Al Gore the 43rd president of the United States, but one person in a remote area of Wyoming is stuffing the online ballots for George W. Bush. Highly unlikely, but the possibility exists.
Another thing to consider: How many of these people voting online are actually registered to vote? I haven’t seen any statistics on this subject. How many of the people who vote in these online polls are actually citizens of the United States? Someone living in Canada or Great Britain could just type in the URL of a Web site that has a poll and cast his vote.
There isn’t any way humanly possible to do background checks on the people who participate in these surveys. In addition, one should take into consideration the fact that many people who plan to vote do not have access to a computer or have not participated in any online polls at all.
Does anyone actually know someone who has participated in these surveys? Who are these people? And what’s the deal with the inaccuracy of these surveys? We can send a man to the moon, yet we can’t create an online poll that doesn’t seem to have an error margin of less than 3 percent.
Online polls are inconsistent. Some might show Gore with a lead, others might show Bush leading by a narrow margin, while still other polls may show the two major candidates in a dead heat.
Just because the presidential candidate you want to win (or any candidate running for political office, for that matter) happens to be trailing in the polls doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It also doesn’t give you an excuse to avoid voting on Election Day, because the only polling that matters will occur on Nov. 7.
If you don’t vote, or if you didn’t even register, and the candidate you wanted to win ends up losing, you have nobody to blame but yourself.