Cherniak has complained about these guys' methods, and the old evil bald one has chimed in on the topic as well. Yesterday, UWHabs reported that they had signed up for Angus Reid online polling and received an invitation to complete their first survey, so I decided to take the "profile" I had created on their "forum" for a test run of my own.
Now, about this profile. I deliberately spent very little time with it, in order to insure that the on-line "person" I created for Angus Reid would be demographically incoherent. So for example:
1) For my name, I gave the hero in one of my (many) unpublished novels, but listed my sex as female.
2) I provided the phone number on the back of my Visa card (their help line), and a postal code from a nearby LCBO.
3) I gave a relatively correct age, but listed my occupation as student.
4) I provided a hotmail account as my e-mail address.
I lied outrageously in ways that escape me right now, but they accepted my application anyway.
So yesterday I received my first survey on "green issues", which also asked about voting intentions towards the end. Again, I answered as quickly as I could, without putting much care into the overall coherence of my responses (the wife and I were going out for wings). So for example, when it came to voting intentions, I punched in Tory, though I had indicated the BQ as the party most likely to act decisively on environmental issues. And so on.
My verdict is: the Angus Reid on-line survey system is pathetically easy to prank (or FREEP, as the youth of today apparently call it), unless some kind of filters are in place that I am not seeing. You could, for example, create as many on-line profiles with Angus Reid as you have hotmail accounts, and unless they are tracking IP addresses and tying each account to a specific address, it is impossible for them to verify even the most basic pieces of demographic information (like the province you live in). At least with phone surveys they can tie you to a relatively precise physical location and presumably tell if you are lying about your gender. Further, even if they are tracking IP addresses, you could work from a wireless hot-spot or a public library computer to create multiple profiles. The only real limit is the amount of time a person is willing to spend filling out on-line forms (this one survey took me about fifteen minutes, and whomping up the initial profile about the same length of time).
But if you're a political party that is already willing to buy headlines from Bourque, or if you're a Blogging Tory with no life outside the frat house, it would not be difficult to manufacture several dozen Tory responses via the Angus Reid system.
Or Liberal responses, if you were that way inclined, or whatever.
Therefore, treat Angus Reid survey results with a great dollop of skepticism.