Saturday, May 26, 2012

What I Learned From Polling People

Earlier this week, I asked my readers to vote on their favorite book blurb for Becoming Brigid.  I had hoped that between blog buddies and tweeps, I'd get lots of feedback.
And I learned a lot; I just didn't learn what I thought I'd learn.  See, I thought I'd learn which book blurb caught people's attention the most.  I didn't learn that at all.  Instead I learned the following:
1) If over 100 people view a blog post with a poll, fewer than 10% of them will actually bother to vote.
2) People who do bother to vote will nearly always pick the first option they read.

How I learned the first of the two is pretty obvious.  The second, however, took more effort.
You see, on the blog, nearly everyone who voted or commented chose option #1, which I thought was clearly not the strongest of the three.  I wondered if I were totally wrong or if people were just picking it because it was first.  So I put the three options into PDFs and took them to school.  I told two classes of 7th graders that I needed their opinions, and I gave them little slips of paper to vote for their favorite.  I told them they could not discuss their opinions until after the vote, as I didn't want them to be influenced by their friends' choices.  (In case you're wondering, I had them do this during planner check time, so I was not wasting teaching time, as they would normally have been reading then anyway.)
As I suspected, they were clearly influenced by which blurb came first.  The two classes were much the same in ability level, yet 5th period, which had option #2 presented first, voted mostly for option #2, and 6th period, which had option #3 presented first, voted mostly for number 3.

Here are the grand totals:
Blog: 7 votes total, six of them were for option #1, which was presented first.  That's 85%
5th period: 34 votes total, 10 for option #1, 21 for option #2 (presented first), and 3 for option #3.  That's 29% for option #1, 61.7% for option #2, and 8% for option #3.
6th period: 30 votes total (we had several absent kids that day), 8 voted for option #1 (26.6%), 10 for option #2 (33%), and 13 (43%) for option #3, which was presented first.

This was all very interesting, but not particularly helpful with regard to my selecting the actual book blurb.

Blog reader and champion beta reader of mine, Tempppo, however, e-mailed me some thoughtful comments, and I may e-mail my English teacher buddy from another school, who was a super alpha-reader for me for this ms.


  1. That's kind of funny, I may have to use a poll like that when I cover statistics in class next year.
    It makes me wonder why. Is it because they are too lazy to listen after the first one, it's just easier to pick #1? Or maybe they are all equally good (or bad) that the first one seems better because they had nothing to compare it to when they hear it. Maybe the first one seems the best because when they hear it all the information is new to them, during the following ones they make predictions on where the blurb is going and when it doesn't follow their expectations, it seems wrong to them.
    Interesting. Veeeery interesting.

    1. I have no idea why. Everything you mentioned has crossed my mind. It is a weird phenomenon, but I doubt it's an isolated one.

    2. It would be an interesting phenomena to study. We should write a grant and see if we can get $3,000,000 in Federal Funding to do a study.