Monday, 25 July 2016

Democratic decision making with polls

Polls have long been the driving tools for democracy. Democracy is you getting the freedom to choose your leaders, and the leaders making laws or policy decisions for you. Why does democratic decision making stop after we select our leaders? Why can’t people be an important part of the decision making machinery? True democracy means a society should have a say in making decisions for itself, rather than choosing a set of people to make decisions for the society. This could mean organizing public opinion polls, for every policy decision that needs to be made. 

Many people would find this idea totally absurd, since scientific polling is not easy, there is money and logistics involved, plus the vast outreach and the inclusive nature of polling makes it more difficult to conduct accurate opinion polls. While this may seem unfeasible now, it is not a far-fetched goal. With technology becoming cheaper, and with smart phones and internet becoming more accessible to common man, having a system in place, for conducting online scientific opinion polls, in an all-inclusive fashion, could be a possibility in the near future.

Some people may also believe, that the common man, would be lacking the required specialized knowledge for making crucial decisions, such as those pertaining to Economic and International Affairs. I would agree, and for very specific scenarios, the decision making would be better left to the expertise and experience of the leaders and his advisors. Nevertheless, good leaders will always be looking out for ways to assess public opinion and sentiment, by connecting with the people, in person, or via technology. 

In today’s age, people are actually getting a chance to voice their opinion. If there is misgovernance, or if something is not working well in the society, people are seen coming out on the streets, in big numbers, to demonstrate and support the cause. Technology, Internet, Media and people’s will to change, for better, are all responsible for bringing people together, thus motivating our leaders to act, and bridge in the gaps. People are also able to express their opinion on social networking platforms, forums, blogs, podcasts etc. 

These platforms are subjective ways of deriving public opinion. A lot of emotions, ideas, thoughts and opinions are shared on these platforms. On the other hand, polls can be a great way of summarizing the public discussions happening on these platforms, they can actually help transforming a discussion into clear cut actionables. Polling is a simple and straight forward way of finding out where the general consensus lies.

As suggested above, with the proliferation of smart phones, mobiles can actually act as polling devices for conducting opinion polls. Pollpop app, is one great mobile app, for creating online opinion polls. The poll results can be further analyzed as charts, and classified by age group, gender, relationship and country with appropriate privacy settings. I am the developer of Pollpop, so I may sound blowing my own trumpet, but there are a couple of other polling tools too, available across the web. One limitation though, with Pollpop and other online polling platforms available currently, is that the polls are not all-inclusive and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have registered with the app and have chosen to participate in the poll. So the poll results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of internet users in general, nor the public as a whole. But with more and more people having access to smart phones and tech gadgets, we can look forward to scientific ways of achieving all-inclusive online public polls. Only when the ‘will of the people’ would be accounted for, with every crucial decision made by our leaders, we can say we have achieved true democracy.

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