2016 is a year that more than a few people will be glad to forget - if only because we said goodbye to Bowie, Prince and Muhammad Ali. Of course 2016 also saw some seismic events - the UK voting to leave the European Union, and Donald Trump winning the US presidential election - two major political earthquakes that confounded the experts and showed that polls can sometimes get it very wrong.

So what happened, and might online video survey technology help resolve issues with polling in future?  

“I think people in this country have had enough of experts.” - Michael Gove

Both Brexit and the US election have been thoroughly dissected in the media, and there are many theories about why pollsters got it so wrong. But one that we feel is quite persuasive is that in both cases, emotion won out over logic. People seem to be less trusting of what they hear from politicians and the mainstream media, and more inclined to go with their gut instincts. The prevalence of social media, “fake news” and polemical media organisations doesn’t help with that.

You would have expected polling to have picked up on this trend, so obvious does it now seem, but looking over at America, in survey after survey of the voting public, it was found that Hillary Clinton was on course for a landslide victory, and that the Republican party was headed for the political wilderness. The reverse happened of course, and now it is the GOP in the ascendancy and the Democrats left floundering.

The Shy Voter effect

Could the answer lie in the ‘shy voter’? These are the people who, when contacted by pollsters, are reluctant to give a true indication of their voting intentions, for whatever reason. Many polls are conducted “blindly” - i.e., the questions are asked either over the phone or through an online form. It’s difficult, if not impossible then, for questioners to judge a respondent’s true emotions, and tell if they are either lying or being cagey.

This ‘shy voter’ phenomenon can understandably lead to polling results being significantly skewed. It is clearly an issue, as political campaigns of all shades depend on the accuracy of polling so they can gauge how policy statements are being received, and make real-time adjustments.

And it’s not just politics of course. Any type of research, such as that conducted on a daily basis by marketers worldwide, must stand and fall on the accuracy of its data.

How long can it be, then, until the potential of online video survey tools such as Plotto is unlocked when it comes to mass polling?

Advantages of online video research software

First, and most important, Plotto’s online survey software allows for rapid, accurate sentiment analysis. With a video survey, the pollster can find it easier to see if someone is openly lying, or perhaps not being fully honest, by studying the emotions on their face. This should allow for more accurate results.

Secondly, with increasing numbers of people carrying mobile devices with them at all times, it’s never been easier or more convenient for them to record and upload short videos. Plotto’s suite of online survey tools is scalable and secure, making them ideal for research projects large and small.

Video research can bring substantial enhancements to any poll, from deeper insight to ease of use, and the capability to bring data to life through storytelling.

At Plotto we’re already seeing increasing numbers of marketers making the switch to video as the cost falls and the technology improves. We would be surprised if political campaigns don’t follow suit over the next few years.

As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, so if you want to get the full story on someone’s intentions, seeing their face while they express their views is the best way.

Trump image by Gage Skidmore: taken from this photostream and used with permission of a Creative Commons license.

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