Many news websites have online polls on their sites.  Although polls can be engaging for site visitors, there are downsides.  Specifically, some site visitors may believe that online poll results are accurate reflections of public opinion when, in fact, they are not.[i]  Further, the widespread use of entertainment-oriented polls may miss valuable opportunities to both entertain and educate site visitors.  We have been analyzing reinvigorated formats for online polls.

Download a summary of the research here (.pdf)

Download the full report here (.pdf)

Recommended practices

  • Ask site visitors to guess a factual result using a quiz format.  You might ask:
    • How many car burglaries occurred in your community in the past year? or
    • What percentage of the public approves of gay marriage, according to a recent Gallup poll?
  • Any numerical data, whether it is the unemployment rate, a tax increase, crime statistics, or opinion poll results, can be used to create online quizzes.
  • Multiple-choice polls with four or five response options have many benefits
  • Slider polls, where there is a bar that allows the site visitor to pick any number between two values (e.g. 0 to 100), also have unique advantages.
  • A series of poll questions on a page can increase engagement.

Outcomes

These quiz-based online poll questions:

engaging-news-project-multiple-choice-poll

  • Increase time on site compared to an article reporting on the same fact without an interactive tool.
  • Are seen as more enjoyable than an article reporting on the same fact without an interactive tool.
  • Help poll participants learn more than presenting static numerical data.

 

Slider polls also have unique benefits when compared to multiple-choice polls.  Specifically, slider polls:

engaging-news-project-slider-poll

  • Increase time on site compared to multiple-choice polls.
  • Help poll participants learn in diverse ways.  Those completing slider polls were equally able to answer factual questions posed in open-ended formats that did not offer any response options and closed-ended formats that offered respondents four response options.  Those completing multiple-choice polls were better able to answer closed-ended, compared to open-ended, factual knowledge questions.

Academic Presentations

Scacco, J. M., Muddiman, A., & Stroud, N. J. (2013, June).  The influence of interactive online poll features on political learning.  Paper presented at the International Communication Association, Political Communication Division, London

Stroud, N. J., Scacco, J., & Muddiman, A. (2013, August).  Interactive quizzes on news websites.  Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Electronic News Division, Chicago. *Awarded Division’s Top Scholar-to-Scholar Presentation

 


[i] Kent, M. L., Harrison, T. R., & Taylor, M. (2006). A critique of Internet polls as symbolic representation and pseudo-events. Communication Studies, 57(3), 299-315; Kim, S. T., Weaver, D., & Willnat, L. (2002). Media reporting and perceived credibility of online polls. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(4), 846-864.