Television stations often ask viewers to call so that they may express an opinion for or against a particular policy. Newspapers and Internet sites also occasionally indulge in this form of entertainment. These gimmicks may be called "polls," but they are completely unscientific because respondents choose whether to participate, and the group that is motivated enough to do so will not represent everyone else in a community. A key element of scientific polling, by contrast, is the representative sample, which requires that every possible respondent has the same probability of participating. This is accomplished today by using computers to dial telephone numbers randomly and then picking which person in a household to interview using another random method.
Obviously, no poll is perfect. But if the pollster succeeds at generating a random sample, then between 1,200 and 1,500 people will give a statistically accurate picture of national opinion. The level of accuracy is often called the margin of error and indicates how much answers will bounce around the truth from poll to poll. Some people wrongly assume that the margin must include the truth, so if a poll estimates that 54 percent of Americans oppose the licensing of gun owners, with a margin of 3 percentage points, they assume the truth must lie between 51 percent and 57 percent. This is not true, however. With low sampling numbers one time in 20 a poll will draw an unlucky sample, one that represents national opinion poorly, even if the pollster did everything right.
In addition to sampling errors, polls can be biased by the type of questions asked and the way the polls are conducted. Questions must be as neutral as possible to avoid skewed results. "Do you believe serial murderers should be executed?" gets a much different response from "Do you support capital punishment?" Interviewers must be careful not to inject their own views into the process by how they ask a question. A poll is also only as good as the respondents, and its validity clearly depends on their willingness to tell the truth about their positions.
Polls are an integral part of global democratic politics. Besides the polling organizations, the news media routinely conduct and report the results of their own surveys. In the US, pollsters also have high-profile positions on campaign and White House staffs. This concern for measuring public opinion indicates that public opinion is useful in understanding the positions of the American people and what policies they support.
It is clear from this analysis that a direct user interface with a much larger sample is bound to get a more accurate and nuanced response and this is where the concept of the Public-Democracy App is particularly strong. It is fast, it is private, it accesses much larger samples, it is possible because of the low cost base to run many more polls. There is the additional powerful advantage of being able to test videos and audio bites which increases its interest value to consumers and these interactions builds a positive image that the representatives cares enough to be seeking this voter input.