NKU Project Compares Polls
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – Can an online public opinion poll be as reliable as traditional polling methods?
That’s the question a political science class at Northern Kentucky University will try to answer this spring by polling local residents both online and through the mail.
The nine students in PSC 394 (Topics in American Politics: Public Opinion) developed the poll, which has 20 questions about a regional ban on indoor smoking, a regional parks system, and the U.S. Senate race.
They mailed the poll to 1,500 randomly selected registered voters in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, and they also posted it online via Facebook.
The goal is to “try to show how valid those responses can be compared to our direct-mail survey,” said professor Shauna Reilly.
There are some variables: They can’t control whether online respondents actually live in Northern Kentucky.
But the project will give more insight into whether online polling can be reliable and valid, which could make it the wave of the future.
“If you can conduct a statistically valuable poll online, you can do some pretty unique polling,” said Mark Neikirk, director of NKU’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement.
The project is in conjunction with the center and the American Democracy Project’s eCitizenship Initiative.
“Northern is very vested in the notion that learning is interactive: you learn by doing, not necessarily just from textbooks,” Neikirk said.
The students have been hands-on in every step of the project, from stuffing envelopes to tracking the results.
“They get to see something really happen,” Reilly said. “They’re not just learning out of a book – they have something tangible they can put their hands on. It’s really a great learning experience.”
Depending on the response rate, the online poll will close around the end of the month. To take it, search for “Northern Kentucky Poll” on Facebook.