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How surveys help put Presidents in the Oval Office

There's an election year right around the corner, which means a whole flurry of candidates are gearing up to hit the campaign trail and the podiums. 

Have you ever wondered about how politicians make decisions about public policy? Sure, they might have some predetermined opinions about big-ticket items like gun control, foreign affairs and health care, but what about all the other topics in between? How do they take a stand for other issues they may not know much about? 

The answer is simple: They go to the polls. Political polls gauge how the public feels about certain issues, and candidates can use those responses to make calculated decisions about their platforms.Think of it like a long ongoing round of surveys delivered to the public en masse. They're not much different from the paid surveys you may be taking online. In fact, polling and online surveys may become much more similar in the coming months.

A new FCC rule targets telephone pollsters
For years, the popular method of administering polls to huge swaths of citizens has been to simply call them at home and ask a few questions. However, the Federal Communication Commission recently approved a rule that gives phone companies the the right to block those "robocalls."

The thought is that most citizens don't like being disturbed in their homes at random times. Polling is easily equated to telemarketing, and the FCC wants companies to be able to do away with both. But some say there could be a dark side to the deal.

"If we lose the advantage of public opinion polling on issues of the day, it really has a profound effect on democracy," pollster Peter Hart told the Los Angeles Times. "The ability to understand whether Americans really, truly want to be involved with military troops in the Middle East is something important to understand."

Without telephone surveys, pollsters will lose a tremendous tool, and that could affect who makes it to the White House next. Fortunately, there could be some solutions.

Take the polls online
There's been a significant influx of companies moving their product surveys onto the Web, and pollsters might be able to do the same. The two big obstacles are money and publicity. Moving polling resources online will inevitably mean spending more time and resources, which some agencies don't have much of to begin with.

Furthermore, there have been worries about how many people in smaller communities can be notified about online polls and whether there will be large enough responses to provide actionable data for candidates.

Fortunately, you already know the power of online surveys and the great deal of good they can do for companies as well as the average American. Remember those facts in the coming months when polling picks up the pace before election season.

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