Why Twitter Polls Should Have a Warning Label

“If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter.” This is how Twitter introduces its “Twitter Polls” feature. Twitter polls might be useful for entertainment and business, but when it comes to politics, it’s more complicated: Twitter polls are not scientific; they are not systematically conducted and therefore cannot represent public opinion. Yet surprisingly, many individuals – ordinary citizens, public officials and political leaders – treat Twitter polls as valid representation of public opinion. Whether they fail to recognize its unscientific nature or intentionally use it as a pseudo-scientific platform for promoting their views, the result is increased cacophony, misinformation and polarization in social media and beyond. Given these problems, Twitter should update its design by adding an interactive warning
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What The Failure of Election Predictions Could Mean for Media Trust and Data Journalism

The election marathon finally ended, but the scandals and disputes we have seen will probably linger for a while in the public consciousness. One specific problem will be the public credibility of data journalism and trust in the media: The pre-election conspiracies regarding the polls could be reinforced with what many considered to be an across-the-board prediction failure. Whereas many polling post-mortems debated the issues that led to this prediction failure, the focus on the implications for public perceptions still deserves attention, especially given the persistence of Donald Trump’s “rigged polls” claim even a month after the election. Moreover, some features of current data journalism in 2016 could contribute to this public cynicism and mistrust of the media. Before the election, we witnessed unprecedented levels of partisan framing over factual evidence on the performance of the candidates. Especially, the claims a rigged election, the misinterpretation of scientific methodological decisions
Photo by Cory M. Grenier on Flickr and reused here with Creative Commons license.
Photo by Dan Howard and used under Creative Commons license
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