Poll Best Practices


Best Practices for Efficient and Optimized Polls

Creating a poll is easy to do, however not as clear is how to set one up for maximum utility. There is more to a poll than just asking a question and offering some choices to select an answer from. In this guide are some key points to consider when creating a poll.

Remove Bias from Polls

Bias in polls leads to unreliable results. It's easy for unintentional and unplanned bias to be in a poll. The first answer choice will likely get the most reponses. This leads to a skewed result. For example, a question of 'What is your favorite ice cream flavor?' may lead to a high number of the first answer choice being selected.

The solution for this is to have the answer choices shown in random order. We provide this feature as a selection in your poll setup. For example if the Favorite Ice Cream poll is structured like this:
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  1. Chocolate
  2. Vanilla
  3. Strawberry
  4. Coffee
  5. Cherry
Then the poll results are going to skew towards chocolate and then vanilla. While it seems people would select the answer that pertains best to their preference, there could be reasons none-the-less for inaccurate results. One possibility is that a person does not have a favorite ice cream flavor. With no clear answer that makes sense for them, they may just select the first choice out of convenience.

Another effect is subtle. A person may have a particular flavor preference but gets subconsciously swayed by seeing the first one or two choices.

The solution to this is to have the answer choices appear randomized. This means that each time the poll is displayed the choices are not shown in any particular order at all. This does not prevent an individual with no preference from selecting the first choice. Each respondent does see the poll once and the choices are set for that one poll impression. However over multiple respondents selecting choices the skew disappears.

One the flip side, you should not randomize selections that are categorized ranges. For example a poll that asks what age group you are in would not be randomized.

Provide an 'Out' Answer Choice

An issue with making polls is the bias of the person making the poll. Even though this person will not be taking the poll, their view of the question and possible answers is biased to their ideas.

Back to the favorite ice cream flavor example, The derived choices are based on what the poll creator perceives as the correct set. Therefore if a poll creator puts down chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee, and cherry, they have left out a good number of other choices. What about butter pecan and chocolate chip? view of the question and possible answers is biased to their ideas.

The solution is to provide a ‘neutral’ or ‘negative’ answer choice that allows a person who sees no applicable choice in the ones presented. In the ice cream example should be ‘another flavor’ or ‘none of these apply’ or even ‘I don’t like ice cream.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  1. Chocolate
  2. Vanilla
  3. Strawberry
  4. Coffee
  5. Cherry
  6. Another flavor
  7. I don’t eat ice cream


Keep Questions Short

The poll question should use as few words as possible. The less words there are, the less chance of misunderstanding.

For example, 'Tell us what your favorite ice cream flavor is' has more words than needed to ask the question. The question should simply be 'What is your favorite ice cream flavor?' Also while these two variations seem very much alike, the first one starts with ‘tell us.’ This could already lead a respondent to second guess how to proceed. Something like ‘Tell us’ indicates an organization or other entity is reviewing answers and this may make a respondent nervous about how to answer. As unlikely as that might seem, it is a possibility.

In the example, “Tell us’ serves no purpose whatsoever.

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