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 the typical domain know to all ACM members.
(To ACM's credit the voting page is secured with SSL and the associated certificate is registered to ACM).

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Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 3:38 pm

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