September 30, 2013

For advertising purposes only

Bogus polls are only useful for advertising, but as long as they are honest about it, that’s not a problem.

As a meritorious example, consider Forest & Bird’s Bird of the Year poll, which starts today. It exists to raise awareness of NZ birds and to get stories in the media about them, but it’s not claiming to be anything else.

At the time of writing, the kereru, ruru, and albatross were tied for first place. They’ve got more security to prevent multiple voting than the newspapers do — you can only vote once per email address — but it’s still just a self-selected poll of a tiny fraction of the population.

Radio NZ science broadcaster Allison Ballance is lobbying for the albatross, which is an excellent choice, but the only official StatsChat advice is to watch out for the penguins.


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


  • avatar

    I just cast my vote for the Kea.

    4 years ago

  • avatar

    Hey Thomas

    Thanks for mentioning us in your post. I believe that promotional polls should never even remotely claim any science-based credibility.

    Bird of the year is part popularity contest and very ironic. I think that it is the irony that sustains this promotion. Each campaign manager massively inflates the positive attributes of their candidate to gain votes. And when (as happened last year) a leading candidate is caught and photographed ripping the throat out of a another candidate the “spin” was sensational. A lesson for anyone running for public office.

    Bird of the year was formed during an election year and its purpose was to promote pest destruction. Each year popularity and exposure each y

    We introduced 1 vote for 1 email in 2011 as we perceived some serious voting irregularities. Supporters of the two leading birds managed to make the votes leapfrog each other for about 10 days. So there are some very passionate bird supporters out there. Many international votes. Last year various raptor societies came in behind the NZ Falcon.

    I thought that last year may have been a pinnacle year for us, but based on numbers voted so far we are trending to be bigger again.

    Vote whio! The white water duck.

    4 years ago