Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Aug. 10, 2022

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From the Newsroom: My side job as a local pollster

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

As I think I have told you before, I view one of my job duties as “fill in the gaps as needed.” That might mean writing a simple story if a reporter is not available, or helping the section editors with editing stories and giving the reporters some feedback. I write editorials and curate the opinion pages when Greg Jayne is absent or otherwise occupied.

I look up the climate forecast and write the outlook sentence that goes in the monthly weather graphic. And I write the “editor’s poll,” which appears toward the bottom of our home page, www.columbian.com.

The poll, of course, is not really a poll. Real polls are designed by data scientists who know how to reach out to respondents who are statistically representative of the intended demographic. The questions are written in such a way as to be neutral. The responses are carefully compiled. And for all of these services, the pollsters deservedly earn a fat fee.

Our editor’s poll is meant to be a form of audience engagement. We want readers to interact with our page in ways that go beyond clicking on a story. I don’t have the skill to make the poll scientific, but I try to make it interesting, with a mix of topics that include not only asking readers about their views on the news, but how the news affects them. And, like everything else we do, I try to keep it locally focused.

I come up with a new question about once a week. (I let it slide if I am on vacation, or if Web Editor Amy Libby, who posts the poll, is on vacation.)

While I was coming up with a new editor’s poll this week I looked back at some recent polls. I thought I would share the results with you:

  • Did anyone you know experience long flight delays over the holidays? (Published Jan. 3). Answers: I don’t know anyone who was flying over the holidays (55 percent); Yes, someone I know was delayed (20 percent); No, everyone got where they were going (mostly) on time (19 percent); Yes, I was delayed (6 percent).
  • How concerned are you about the omicron variant? (Dec. 20). Answers: Very concerned. It spreads quickly and easily (50 percent); Not too concerned. COVID-19 is overblown (30 percent); Not as concerned as I was over the delta variant (19 percent).
  • How much attention are you paying to (the 2022) local congressional race? (Dec. 6). Answers: Not much attention. I’ll be interested next year (46 percent); A lot of attention. There are a lot of candidates already (31 percent); Hardly any attention. I am more focused on Christmas than politics (23 percent).
  • How should local infrastructure spending be prioritized? (Nov. 29). Answers: Improve city streets and county roads first (44 percent); Improve major freeways first (34 percent); Improve infrastructure other than transportation (16 percent); Improve local transit first (6 percent).
  • Have you received your COVID-19 booster shot? (Oct. 28). Answers: Yes, I have (45 percent); Not yet, but I plan to do so (30 percent); I don’t plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine (14 percent); I am not eligible for a booster (12 percent).
  • When do you plan to vote this year? (Oct. 18). Answers: I like to vote as soon as my ballot arrives (54 percent); I don’t really have a preference (24 percent); I like to vote close to Election Day (16 percent); I don’t plan to vote this year (6 percent).
  • Should health care workers be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19? (Oct. 4). Answers: Yes, Health care workers need to take all precautions when working with the public (69 percent); No. They should have a choice, like everyone else (31 percent).

Since these polls are anything but scientific, I don’t think it is fair to assume the results reflect the opinions of Clark County residents as a whole. But I do interpret them to show Columbian readers are connected with and concerned about their community. And with their local newspaper!

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