Online polls are not reliable; they are easily manipulated and you cannot determine the validity of the sample. We know that, but we like to run them because they’re fun and you do get some insights into your readers.
I do think you are more likely to get somewhat accurate information when you ask noncontroversial questions, such as, “What neighborhood do you live in?”
But when it comes to political races or controversial social and political issues, online political polls are, by nature, prone to “bombing.” By bombing, I mean that supporters of candidates and causes are likely to steer their people toward the poll.
We ran two reader polls on the DC mayoral race this year and we didn’t seem to see too much bombing by supporters of either Adrian Fenty or Vincent Gray. It will be interesting to see how local precincts end up voting on September 14 compared to what our readers told us. (We’re not counting on being particularly accurate.)
On Friday, August 20, we ran a reader poll on the landing page, Ward 1 Democrats: Who’s your choice for Council?, with an accompanying article. The poll choices were Jim Graham, Jeff Smith, Bryan Weaver, “Undecided even though I know the candidates,” and “Undecided: Who are these guys?”
What ended up being most interesting about our reader poll on the Ward 1 Council race wasn’t the poll results–it was the effective use of social media (Facebook and Twitter) by two scrappy campaigns fighting to get all the attention and publicity they can muster against a three-term incumbent. Yes, this type of thing is common. But this was an interesting example of how it’s done.
Through Tuesday the 23rd a total of 93 readers had voted. It was obvious that the Weaver campaign had found the poll: he got 77 of those first 93 votes. Incumbent Graham–who is heavily favored to win on September 14–had 9 votes and Smith had 2 votes. (The D.C. Wire at The Washington Post reported that Graham campaign did a July poll showing him getting 68%.)
Then on Wednesday the 25th, much larger numbers of Weaver supporters found the online poll and began voting for their guy. By Thursday the 26th Smith supporters were in the game and the number of people voting for these two candidates soared. Smith took the lead for a day but then Weaver got it back.
By the time we closed the poll Monday night, 861 readers (many of them undoubtedly not regular Borderstan readers) had voted in the Ward 1 Council poll. The results were Weaver 52%, Smith 43%, Graham 4%, and Undecided 1%.
What happened? First, local blogger Dave Stroup picked up the poll on Twitter and began commenting about it (Stroup writes about DC politics for We Love DC and Greater Greater Washington). Then, supporters of both Weaver and Smith began tweeting about the poll, posting on Facebook (and undoubtedly sending emails). My question at the time on Twitter and Facebook was, “Where are the Graham supporters?” For whatever reason, the Graham campaign decided not to drive local supporters to our reader poll. Of course, when you are the heavy favorite, you don’t feel the need to participate in online reader polls.
So, on September 14 we will be watching the results of the Democratic Primary in Ward 1 for the Council seat… to see how Graham, Smith and Weaver do. And we will keep running reader polls at Borderstan because they are often interesting and you snapshots of your readers–with varying degrees of accuracy.
Our reader poll this week is for Ward 1 Democrats: “Who’s your choice for City Council?” Yes, there’s a contest this year for the Ward 1 City Council seat: three-term incumbent Jim Graham is being challenged by Bryan Weaver and Jeff Smith. (Poll is in the right nav bar.)
While DC conventional wisdom has Graham winning the September 14 primary–which is normally tantamount to winning the November general election–both Weaver and Graham are running spirited campaigns.
Graham was the second openly gay member of the DC Council when he was elected in 1998, following David Catania (I-At Large). If he wins his Democratic primary, he will face a different kind of Republican on the November 2 ballot: Marc Morgan, who is also gay and African American.
U Street Girl recently did wrote some short profiles pieces on the three Democratic and one Republican candidate running for the Ward 1 Council seat. Check them out (they’re good quick reads) before you vote in our reader poll.
- Graham, Smith and Weaver: A quick primer on Ward 1 dem candidates
- Marc Morgan: A quick primer on Ward 1 repub candidate
Voting on September 14
- Not sure if you live in Ward 1? Check your voter registration card or click here for a Ward 1 map.
- You can also put in your address and find your voting precinct at the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) website.
- Not sure if you registered at all? You can also check your registration online with BOEE.
- Remember that DC has closed primaries. You must be a registered Democrat, Republican, or Statehood Green party member to vote in the September primary election. (Mayor Adrian Fenty’s campaign tried to convince BOEE to allow DC’s 72,000 registered Independent voters to vote in the September 14 primaries, but were unsuccessful.)
- It’s too late to change your party affiliation, but you can still register in person at the BOEE office or register at your polling place on September 14 (remember to bring ID). You have through this Friday, August 27, to register in person at BOEE. After Friday you must register at your polling place on September 14.