How Not to Conduct a Poll
Recently the ACM Council asked members to provide feedback on the issue of expanding legal protections for collections of data by means of an on-line poll. Opening the policy feedback decision-making process to the ACM membership promotes member participation and transparency. However, I have two serious reservations regarding the way the member feedback was requested.
- First of all, the form being used presents the ACM position as a fait accompli and asks members for feedback on it. It would surely be more appropriate to ask members what the position should be.
- In addition, the page where members can indicate their views also contains a summary of the results collected that far. The display of the results can induce a bandwagon effect, swinging member views toward the more prevalent opinion, or, worse, reduce the member participation when members see that their vote is unlikely to tilt a large, already established, difference. It would have been far better to display the results after a member has had a chance to express his or her views.
- Finally, the domain being used to conduct the poll is different from
acm.orgdomain know to all ACM members.