My latest Angus Reid persona got an email yesterday morning:
Dear SuperSecretPersona, Angus Reid wants to know WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Please take a quick break to answer a few questions on topics ranging from Canada's justice system and the RCMP to household pets.
So my boat-owning, B.C. Conservative answered a number of questions re. his political beliefs, the pet-food scandal (my fictitious cat became seriously ill), and a harmless but rather unsightly condition known as "skin tags".
Now, one of my anonymice claimed earlier that my obsession with pranking Angus-Reid makes me like the guy who orders a pizza using a false name, or who short-changes the TTC by eight cents every time he rides the bus and thinks that makes him a rebel.
Well, for one thing, I don't know how he found out that I do all that stuff. For another, it isn't what I'm up to here.
I am arguing that, using their current methodology, Angus-Reid is nothing more than a glorified quicky-poll like the type you find at (for example) the CTV website.
AR allows you to create multiple profiles from a single IP address, so while I currently have two of them active, that could be twenty, or 200, as many as the number of hotmail accounts I could create. Furthermore, AR has no means of determining whether or not the demographic information I have given them is correct (in fact its mostly false). And this is quite different from a phone poll. Given a phone-book, or better a reverse directory, a polling company can match the phone-number of a potential contact to a street, and therefore to a postal code or Stats-Canada census tract. Thus they have some basic information about the contact's likely age, ethnicity, social status, and so forth. And of course, its difficult to lie about your gender over the phone!
Now, I'm not saying on-line polls can't be designed to work as well as a phone-poll. But, in my experience of such things, its necessary to make real-world contact with your potential participants first (by, for example mailing something to an address and asking them to mail it back) in order to pin down their location in physical space, at which point you can make assumptions about their background, social status, and etc. Of course, that involves spending money on postage and paper. Angus Reid seems to be going the El Cheapo route, and the credibility of their polling suffers as a result.