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The Poll Gone Wrong

It’s probably a little late to be posting this. But, I have been needing some more personal time lately, and so I took it.

However, I wanted to address the problem that happened with the poll about two weeks ago. If you don’t know the story follow the comment stream on the post Meeting the Candidates.

The Breakdown
Essentially, it appears that some one set up their computer with a macro to keep logging for Tim Bridgewater (or they have no life and they just kept refreshing and voting). At first, I was very impressed with the new hits that I was getting. I was also very impressed with what appeared to be a great grass roots campaign by the various Senate candidates.

I had impressed myself thinking that my poll was giving Al Gore style hockey stick with my statistics. I was so impressed with it, I had planned on doing a little bragging on my blog. However, the truth had yet to be realized.

What a Poll Can Do...

Fortunately, one of our readers called me to the table and awakened my eyes to the fact that someone must be hacking the poll. After a short bout with denial, and recalling that I could see some information about my visitors, I did a quick check.

It appears that someone was using an IP blocker (that routes them through a Russian IP address) to try and manipulate the poll. This is obviously, someone who knows what she is doing. This isn’t just some rank amateur who thought it might be fun to mess with a poll. However, that’s about as far as I am going to go in stating what I know about this hacker.

Who’s to Blame?

I would love to trace this back further than the IP Blocker. I would love to find out a way to associate all the votes made by the hacker and delete them. Unforetunately, I can’t do that. Mainly, because I am not willing to spend the money that it would require. I would also love to go further and get past the IP blocker and find out who it really was, but I am pretty sure that on the military could probably do that. So, I am not going to go that far.

Some have spoken with me (online and offline) trying to blame the Bridgewater campaign for the infraction. And on the surface, they would probably be right. However, because I can’t do any more research than I already have we should be careful about laying blame.

This hacker could be any of the three people, as far as I can tell. First, it could simply be someone who is unaffiliated with any group, who is just trying to have some fun. And I was stupid enough to provide her the opportunity. Second, it could be from any one of the varying campaigns acting with authority, and they are trying to make their candidate look good. Third, it could be from any one of the varying campaigns acting without authority and they are trying to make their candidate look good.

You’ll notice that I didn’t specify which candidate in the last two options. That’s because it is possible that this could be a non-Bridgewater campaigner who is trying to make Bridgewater look bad, but hacking the poll and giving him a bad name. It could also be a Bridgewater campaigner who is doing it. While, I leave it open for the possibility that this person is authorized. I am fairly sure that no matter which candidate they support, that this person is NOT authorized by any campaign. I would guess that they are acting independent.

My point here is to say, that anyone who is quick to blame any camp for this, is wrong. Unless they have irrefutable evidence, we would be wrong to assume that there is something nefarious going on by any of the candidates.

So, who is to blame. I am.

I am to blame because I didn’t secure the poll like I should have done at the beginning. I tried to make amends by restarting the poll with the needed security. But that is only a small token of an apology. I am posting this as an apology as well, and I have learned my lesson well. When it get’s closer to the convention, I will make my final extension of an olive branch and start a new online poll. I wish that I could do more, but that is all that I am capable of.

So, What Did We Learn?

Beside that fact that I should have secured my pool, we can learn a few things from this experience.

First, I learned that when it comes to campaigns’ there is a grass root effort that can boost my visitors. And the many grass root supporters are very strong supporters for their candidates. And this can skyrocket (or hockey stick) a website’s visits.

Second, online polls (I don’t care who is running them) are pointless. Anyone who chooses their candidate based on an online poll is making and egregious error. They shouldn’t rely on anything as feeble as an online poll to sway them. Study the candidates. Talk to them. Evaluate the differences, and then make your decision.

Why Polls?

You might be wondering if I don’t think online polls are accurate assessments of people’s opinions, then why do I run them. The answer is two-fold.

The most important reason I run them is that it brings people back to my site. If I am clever enough to run an online poll that interests people, they will come back to see the results. This return will hopefully, get them more interested in the other content that I write, and encourage them to participate in the conversation.

The other reason, is that it does give me a small taste of what interests my readers. At best, the polls that I run here only tell me what my readers are interested in. It doesn’t tell me about what Utahns are interested in, or what national or world opinion is. It simply reflects (at it’s best) what my readers are thinking. This can help me to know what to write about.

One other minor reason that I post polls, is because they are fun. And they shouldn’t be seen as much more than that.

Conclusion

It was a wild ride. I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. It help me to inform my opinion of the candidates. I hope that it helped others too.

If I hadn’t have run the poll I never would have gotten the response that I did. I wouldn’t have heard from so many people on the subject of these candidates. I would do it again (and I will), but next time I will play it safer.

I don’t put much stock in either of these polls, either the before or the after. But it does give me an idea as to which of the candidates has the strongest grass roots campaign. Now it is up to those candidates to influence the delegates to get elected.

I look forward to the rest of the race. I will be attending the May 8th convention, even though I am not a state delegate. I look forward to the turn out.

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3 comments to The Poll Gone Wrong

  • observer

    It should be of note that the same results occurred on a KSL poll conducted on January 5th. Mr. Lee scored pretty high, and Mr. Bridgewater kept getting votes on par with Mr. Lee, all the way up. It’s as if somebody was simply manually adding a vote for every vote that Mr. Lee received.

    So, this was not an isolated case…

    • I know nothing about the KSL poll. And I have no way of researching. That’s why I didn’t comment on that. Although the Lee campaign seems to be bothered by it.

      However, the KSL poll could have been manipulated just as much as mine, and by the same (or similar) person, with any of the motives I mention above.

  • Misnomer

    If only you’d called it a ‘Straw Poll’, we’d know EXACTLY the source of the stacked votes! LOL!

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