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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Wed 8 Nov 2017


What is wrong with political polls?

Andy Littledale first joined the Studio as part of his role as a consultant producer at the BBC. He set up his own revolutionary TV analytics company SecondSync which was acquired by twitter in 2014, after which Andy became…

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Sookie Greene

Sookie was the Studio Assistant from 2017 - 2018.

Andy Littledale first joined the Studio as part of his role as a consultant producer at the BBC. He set up his own revolutionary TV analytics company SecondSync which was acquired by twitter in 2014, after which Andy became Director of Media Analytics and Senior Product Manager at twitter. Andy’s talk concentrated political polling, which is the focus of his new startup Poli. 

Five Things I Learned

1. As a self-confessed polling geek, Andy identified that the financial incentive for people to take part in a poll can compromise data and introduce bias. The current business model for polling companies doesn't allow them to survey more than a 1000 people at a time. This very small sample doesn’t reveal major shifts in society and can magnify other changes.

2. Andy believes inaccurate polling can hinder democracy, how can political leaders make informed decisions if the statistics aren’t right? For example, during the last American election campaign Hilary Clinton decided against visiting Wisconsin due to a poll suggesting she would win in that area by 4%. However, the results were very different leading her to lose in that area. These inaccurate polls resulted in poor decision-making.

3. With Poli Andy aims to build an engaging digital product, meaning he can scale to a size that other polls can’t afford with model that relies less on small samples. Andy initially thought about creating a poll application, but decided against the idea due to how hard it is to get app into an app store (and it’s harder still to get people to use it). Statistics show the average user downloads 0 apps on average per month!

4. Today 35 million people in the UK are on Facebook messenger. Messenger apps are now more popular than social media apps, with Facebook messenger and WhatsApp being two of the biggest in the world. Messenger services such as WeeChat (the top messenger app in China) and Facebook Messenger opt for Chat bot platforms, which behave like mini-apps within the messenger applications. 

5. Poli have built their own chat bot for Facebook messenger from scratch despite it being much easier to use an existing format. They didn't want to be tethered to any existing platform and this allowed them to design their own backend and questioning platform. Poli is a huge advocate of privacy and aim to be the antithesis of fake news. Poli have employed an industry expert to write unbiased polling questions and every user has an anonymised I.D. Any data they chose to provide about their age, gender etc won’t be sold or shared on.

Andy tested Poli around the time Teresa May announced a snap election. Two weeks before they recruited around 4000 users to the platform using Facebook advertising. To test how ‘sticky’ the product is (how likely people are to use the app regularly) they sent out poll every week after and have a 66% response rate.

Poli want to be the first company to be able to accurately predict by-elections. But Andy doesn’t want to stop there. Poli will cover a broad range of topics from football, pop-culture to entertainment. If you’d like to find out more, you can find Poli via Twitter.