The Trouble with Polls

Justice A. Manning recently complained about the polls he participated in.

I am an air pollution person (with an MS in Water Resources from Auburn University) who has been added to your subscriber list some way; I did NOT do it. But in this issue, I decided to participate in two of the polls: the one about the supply of water vs. population and the acreage that triggers the need for a construction permit.

I see two problems with your polls in the newsletter: they are too simplistic and you don't provide answers for the "correct" situation, the acreage question being a prime example. What difference does an answer to your poll make if the requirement is totally different but one who responds doesn't ever see the answer?

As for the water supply question, I don't believe either choice was adequate or correct. If our population learned to conserve water, we have plenty in most areas of the country; exceptions exist, of course.

At least the choice should have been a non-conserving population, or provide a place for a person to write a comment, or inadequate supply. I realize that then you likely are going beyond space requirements for such a news magazine. However, I do feel without providing a "correct" answer, the polls are not very beneficial.

In response, I told Mr. Manning that our polls are designed to generate discussion and help build community, and with any luck, help educate readers. The two he mentioned, which are admittedly flawed, resulted in his comments, which are the beginning of a discussion!

The education begins after the poll. Many readers already know the answer and perhaps like to help others know it.

Mark L. Bruce, technical director at TestAmerica in Ohio, also had a complaint: Your water vs. population poll doesn't allow me to select both. We have too many people in the places where there is limited water supply. People tend to migrate to warm dry climates, but those are also the places with less water. Clouds challenge a sunny disposition, but they can provide a lot of water.

You're right; we should have offered that option as we have in other polls posted on the site.

Our current content management system does not allow visitors to automatically post comments. By April, we are hoping to remedy this with a new system.

I would like to mention that our polls, which have no restrictions on how many times a person can participate and therefore cannot be considered valid, often show perceptions. It's not always about the right answer, if you know what I mean.

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Jan 21, 2009


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