Straw Polls? Try Coffee Polls


7-11 is, once again, holding its 7-Election Presidential Election Poll. Just like years past, 7-11 customers can "vote" for either Obama or Romney by going into a 7-11 and buying a cup of coffee. To vote for Obama, they fill up with the blue cup labeled Obama. To vote for Romney, they fill up with the red cup labeled Romney. The results are updated daily and posted to the election section of their website. As of Oct. 26, 2012, Obama is leading with 59% of the vote.

If this isn't an example of poor sampling, I don't know what is. There is no way this so-called "poll" is generalizable to the overall population of the United States. There are currently 16 states which do not have a 7-11 meaning the votes of citizens in those states are not measured. Furthermore, 7/11's are commonly found in low income, urban areas automatically excluding rural citizens from its measures. Lastly, within the already narrowed down sample of low income, urban citizens living in the 34 states lucky enough to have a 7-11, only customers of 7-11 who buy coffee get to have their votes counted, and the votes of some get counted more than once as the poll allows for a customer to vote more than once by buying more than one cup of coffee.

The results are published in a somewhat fair manner. The map on their website only shows results from states that have 7-11's, and if the viewer knows the nature of 7/11 locations, then they will know exactly what kind of voter the poll is measuring (low income, urban). However, their website refers to the results as "national results," misleading viewers into thinking that the poll could accurately predict the forthcoming election. We can only hope that no voter would take this poll seriously.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on 7/11 though. After all, this is simply one company out of thousands who are cashing in on the free hype and publicity of the Presidential election to market their products. And I'm willing to bet they're selling a lot off coffee because of it.

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