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The 2001 British Election Study Internet Poll: a Methodological Experiment

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Abstract:

This paper reports on the findings of the Internet component of the 2001 BES and compares them with those of the other BES pre-election surveys. Part 1 of the paper provides a brief outline of the rationale that underpins the introduction of Internet polling as a supplement to more traditional methods of assessing mass public opinion. Part 2 describes the marginal distributions on the key dependent variable - the projected vote shares of the main political parties - of the three pre-election polls that were conducted using BES questionnaires. Intriguingly, the (unweighted) Internet-based poll provided a better guess of the actual vote shares in the subsequent election than either of the two conventional polls. Part 3 provides a more detailed comparison of the profiles of the face-to-face and Internet-based polls. It shows how the Internet poll, compared with the face-to-face poll, was skewed demographically towards the professional classes and politically towards the Conservative Party. Part 4 explores the extent to which the use of the Internet poll might result in spurious causal inferences being drawn about the sources of voting preferences in the 2001 UK election. A simple, direct-effects causal model is estimated using both the face-to-face probability sample data and the Internet survey data. The model is tested using a variety of weighting algorithms. The results suggest that, although the raw probability and Internet samples differ significantly, the relationships among the key variables do not differ significantly across the two samples. We conclude that Internet polling has an important part to play in gauging and analysing public opinion in future elections.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

survey (144), net (137), sampl (125), vote (107), poll (98), weight (80), labour (78), probabl (78), b (62), elect (62), differ (58), signific (55), internet (55), demograph (54), tabl (54), effect (48), parti (45), polit (42), two (42), 00 (42), 2001 (41),

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Keywords: internet, online, bes, British, election, survey, Sanders, methodology, poll, 2001
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MLA Citation:

Sanders, David., Clarke, Harold., Stewart, Marianne. and and, Paul. "The 2001 British Election Study Internet Poll: a Methodological Experiment" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston Marriott Copley Place, Sheraton Boston & Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, Aug 28, 2002 <Not Available>. 2009-05-27 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p66295_index.html>

APA Citation:

Sanders, D. , Clarke, H. , Stewart, M. and and, P. W. , 2002-08-28 "The 2001 British Election Study Internet Poll: a Methodological Experiment" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston Marriott Copley Place, Sheraton Boston & Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-27 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p66295_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This paper reports on the findings of the Internet component of the 2001 BES and compares them with those of the other BES pre-election surveys. Part 1 of the paper provides a brief outline of the rationale that underpins the introduction of Internet polling as a supplement to more traditional methods of assessing mass public opinion. Part 2 describes the marginal distributions on the key dependent variable - the projected vote shares of the main political parties - of the three pre-election polls that were conducted using BES questionnaires. Intriguingly, the (unweighted) Internet-based poll provided a better guess of the actual vote shares in the subsequent election than either of the two conventional polls. Part 3 provides a more detailed comparison of the profiles of the face-to-face and Internet-based polls. It shows how the Internet poll, compared with the face-to-face poll, was skewed demographically towards the professional classes and politically towards the Conservative Party. Part 4 explores the extent to which the use of the Internet poll might result in spurious causal inferences being drawn about the sources of voting preferences in the 2001 UK election. A simple, direct-effects causal model is estimated using both the face-to-face probability sample data and the Internet survey data. The model is tested using a variety of weighting algorithms. The results suggest that, although the raw probability and Internet samples differ significantly, the relationships among the key variables do not differ significantly across the two samples. We conclude that Internet polling has an important part to play in gauging and analysing public opinion in future elections.

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Page count: 34
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The 2001 British Election Study Internet Poll: a Methodological Experiment David Sanders* Harold Clarke** Marianne Stewart** Paul Whiteley* and Joe Twyman*** * Department of Government University of Essex ** Department of Political Science University of Texas at Dallas *** YouGov.com July 2002 Abstract This paper reports on the findings of the Internet component of the 2001 BES and compares them with those of the other BES pre­election surveys. Part 1 of the paper provides a brief outline of the
still refuse to state a preference) and those `leaners' who are not inclined to state a preference when first asked about it but who when pressed are willing to indicate that they are in fact likely to vote in a particular way. The genuinely undecided are much more likely to be true `independents'; the leaners are more likely to possess some sort of prior partisan commitment. 7 As Table 3 shows the three biggest demographic disparities between the unweighted


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