Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reasons you should never trust online polls

But first -- WOOOO ENGLAND WON THE ASHES!!!! STUFF IT AUSTRALIA! This was probably the worst weekend for Australian sport in a long time, they lost the Ashes to England, the title of best Test cricket team to South Africa and lost in the Tri-Nations (rugby) to New Zealand. Very crappy weekend.

Now for the feature presentation - the reason internet polls are dumb:

I suppose a small amount of explanation is required before going into my rant. You see, The University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team finished 2-6 last year. Those two wins were actually an improvement on what was expected from this team... that hadn't won a game since 2001. What right-thinking individual would rationally come to the conclusion that this is a team that was bound to win this season. Further still, how could 40.48% of respondents to the poll think that?

Effectively, the OUA (poll found here) is asking what school the respondent goes to or went to. Polls like this are moronic, they don't give any real information, they just find out whose fans visit the hosting website the most. Polls like the one TSN is currently running on their NHL website (whether Dany Heatley will still be an Ottawa Senator by October 1) are more telling, as fan allegiances only play a small role in the option the answerer clicks (although Sens fans who like Heatley will probably be clicking "Yes, he'll be a Senator").

These kinds of polls really do, to some extent, give an idea of what the public thinks on an issue. For team-based polls, though, almost any fan is going to pick their team to win it all. After all, this is the year!!! Right? So why bother?

Unfortunately, it's an idiot-trap. It's a bit like Las Vegas, you see all the fancy lights and all of a sudden some greasy-haired, shiny-shirt-wearing creep named Gino owns your house. You see the poll, answer it, and are maybe attracted by a story. Who knows? I know people who go to certain sites on a weekly basis specifically to answer a poll.

This all leads me to one very simple conclusion:


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