What The Polls On TST Can Reveal To Us: The Power Of Persuasion

I love to place my vote in every TST poll that appears in an article. Many readers here feel the same way. Why? It is an opportunity to express your opinion without having to create your own post or make a public comment on the article thread. It is fun to do. And it allows you to gauge how well your opinion coincides with those of other TST'ers. How many of us have taken a peek at the voting results well after they have voted?

An interesting event occurred the other day, one that made me give some thought to these polls. Are they a reliable indicator of how the TST community feels on any particular subject? Can voter's be influenced into voting a certain way? Or do voter's go with their own instincts and opinions when they vote? The event that occurred was the news that the Minnesota Vikings might be in the market for trading Percy Harvin. Within 24 hours, three articles were posted here on the TST site in relation to this news: one by Tevin Broner, one by James Goldbleu and one by yours truly.

The three articles all explored the possibility/merits of the Rams trading for Harvin. Each of the three articles took a distinctly different position. Tevin's was a balanced article, discussing the pros and cons of signing Harvin. James' was adamantly in favour of trading for him. My article gave a series of reasons as to why we should not explore the trade. Each article was accompanied by a poll, with each poll posing the same question: Should the Rams trade for Percy Harvin?

Both Tevin's and James' polls (although there were more options that meant the same thing) essentially allowed you to answer yes or no. Mine also included yes or no and added a third option: yes, but only if a reasonable extension could be agreed to and the cost in draft picks was reasonable.

What were the results of the three polls?

Tevin - 46% yes - 54% no

James - 70% yes - 30% no

Mine - 10% yes - 45% no - 45% yes, but only on reasonable terms

The additional option I gave was very appealing to voter's who did not want to vote just yes. Was that just coincidence? Were voter's glad to have another option? Or was it because that option came directly from my article? For the purposes of this discussion let's assume (from the trend of the voting on my poll) that if those 45% of voter's were forced to pick between yes and no that it would have split roughly 60/40 in favour of yes. That would make my poll percentages 37% yes and 63% no. Three polls asking the same question, the same yes and no answers and all within a 24 hour period of time. Yet the results of the polls show quite a wide variance. How is this possible? Shouldn't the results of the three polls be almost identical? The other interesting thing to note is that voter's, when given the option of a yes but with qualifications, decidedly chose that option over a straight yes answer.

There could be many reasons for the wide variance in voting percentages: time of day the polls were posted, different voter's in each poll, differences in followers of each writer, differences in the total votes in each poll, etc.). However, one reason stands out above all others and makes the most sense: the voting percentages reflect (at least to some degree) the slant/position that each of the articles took. Tevin's was the most balanced article and the voting reflects that in being the closest in yes/no percentages. James' article was easily the most in favour of the trade; his poll has the highest yes percentage by far. My article was not in favour of the trade; my poll had the lowest percentage of yes votes among the three polls. If looked at in this manner, it is evident that the position/slant each of the articles took influenced and persuaded many readers to vote a certain way.

I, for one, am quite opinionated. Reading this article should convince you of that. Many of the Fanposts I write want to persuade you to agree with my point of view. I, myself, am not easily swayed by someone else's opinion, but can be if the argument is convincing enough. I believe most of the TST community is the same way. I also believe that is the reason for the wide variance in poll results presented in this article. It should be noted that this is not the only example that I found that has these kinds of results and tie-ins with the slant/position taken in the article.

This Fanpost brings up some interesting questions: Should polls (where applicable) have more options than just yes/no, to better gauge opinion? Should a stand-alone poll section be created on TST, one which allows you to vote on various polls (and peruse many polls at the same time) without having to read an article or be influenced by one? Percy Harvin did not stir up a lot of heated discussion. Sam Bradford sure does. Sam Bradford articles can initiate a lot of confrontation and surliness on this site. Are some of the front page writers (who are far more influential than any of us Fanposters) partly to blame for this happening? Do they, through their opinions/slants in their articles on Sam, steer some of us in a certain direction and inadvertently initiate or exacerbate confrontations among the readers as a result? For comparative purposes, please check out Tevin's article posted yesterday "Where does Sam Bradford rank?". It is a good example of how NOT to initiate a confrontation. Please bear in mind that I have nothing but the utmost respect for the writers on this site. Their talent and dedication is to be admired. And they are entitled to their opinions, just like we are. I don't have the answers to the questions I just posed, nor did I create a poll to answer any of them. I am just creating a discussion.

Thanks for reading! Your comments and opinions are greatly appreciated!

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