Online poll has local community talking election

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

Some months ago, L’Observateur started running a weekly poll on its Web site, Since then the questions have run the gamut from serious issues to pleasant diversions. But never before has a poll question garnered such a response as this week’s question.

With the four major candidates having declared their intentions to run and qualifying just around the corner, the race for St. John the Baptist Parish President is heating up. Accordingly, L’Observateur thought it would be a good time to ask our readers who they thought was the early frontrunner in the race. Throughout the first few days of the polling, the results were on par with previous questions. Then, Thursday evening that began to change.

One of the candidates sent out messages via Facebook and Twitter asking for friends and followers to vote in the poll. As a result, that candidate’s numbers began to soar — a true demonstration of the power of social media at work. These actions prompted some readers to suggest the poll be taken down. Since Friday morning, however, the other candidates’ numbers have also begun to climb. Whether they used similar tactics to do so remains to be seen.

Regardless of your position on the matter, it does bring to mind a few interesting facts about the online poll.

First of all, L’Observateur does not claim these polls have any scientific validity whatsoever. The power of the Internet is also its weakness. L’Observateur can now be read from any computer anywhere in the world. But that also means it is impossible to limit voting in the online polls to residents of the River Parishes. Some of the votes in this week’s poll have come from at least as far away as Boston. It is important to remember that come election time, only the votes of St. John residents will be counted.

The second part of the matter, which really is tied to the first, is the polls’ real purpose is to be a conversation starter. In that regard, this week’s question has certainly achieved its goal. Now, more people than ever are thinking and talking about the election. And the more people talk about it, the more educated the populace becomes. That translates to more educated decisions being made on March 27.

And that’s good for all of us.