Published on September 18th, 2013

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Many news websites have online polls on their sites. Although polls can be engaging for site visitors, there are downsides. Specifically, some site visitors may believe that online poll results are accurate reflections of public opinion when, in fact, they are not. Further, the widespread use of entertainment-oriented polls may miss valuable opportunities to both entertain and educate site visitors. We have been analyzing reinvigorated formats for online polls.


Recommended practices

  • Ask site visitors to guess a factual result using a quiz format.  You might ask:
    • How many car burglaries occurred in your community in the past year? or
    • What percentage of the public approves of gay marriage, according to a recent Gallup poll?
  • Any numerical data, whether it is the unemployment rate, a tax increase, crime statistics, or opinion poll results, can be used to create online quizzes.
  • Multiple-choice polls with four or five response options have many benefits
  • Slider polls, where there is a bar that allows the site visitor to pick any number between two values (e.g. 0 to 100), also have unique advantages.
  • A series of poll questions on a page can increase engagement.

Outcomes

These quiz-based online poll questions:

  • Increase time on site compared to an article reporting on the same fact without an interactive tool.
  • Are seen as more enjoyable than an article reporting on the same fact without an interactive tool.
  • Help poll participants learn more than presenting static numerical data.

Slider polls also have unique benefits when compared to multiple-choice polls. Specifically, slider polls:

  • Increase time on site compared to multiple-choice polls.
  • Help poll participants learn in diverse ways.  Those completing slider polls were equally able to answer factual questions posed in open-ended formats that did not offer any response options and closed-ended formats that offered respondents four response options.  Those completing multiple-choice polls were better able to answer closed-ended, compared to open-ended, factual knowledge questions.

Academic Presentations

Scacco, J. M., Muddiman, A., & Stroud, N. J. (2013, June). The influence of interactive online poll features on political learning. Paper presented at the International Communication Association, Political Communication Division, London

Stroud, N. J., Scacco, J., & Muddiman, A. (2013, August). Interactive quizzes on news websites. Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Electronic News Division, Chicago. *Awarded Division’s Top Scholar-to-Scholar Presentation

Researchers

  • Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud
    Director
    tstroud@austin.utexas.edu

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement and Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Niche News: The Politics of News Choice, received the Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association, and inspired the early development of the Center. Her research examines the use and effects of political news content.

  • Joshua Scacco

    Joshua Scacco
    Faculty Research Associate
    jscacco@purdue.edu

    Joshua M. Scacco (PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 2014) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. He also serves as a Faculty Research Associate with the Center for Media Engagement. He specializes in political communication, media content and effects, and quantitative research methods. Josh’s research is focused on how emerging communication technologies influence established agents in American political life, including news organizations and the presidency. Before joining USF, Josh served on the faculty at Purdue University, worked in public relations at the state and federal level, and worked for a member of legislative leadership in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as well as a U.S. senator.

  • Ashley Muddiman

    Ashley Muddiman
    Faculty Research Associate
    ashley.muddiman@gmail.com

    Dr. Ashley Muddiman (University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, as well as a Faculty Research Associate with the Center for Media Engagement. Her research explores political media effects, specifically those related to digital news and political incivility. She has studied how people select news stories to read in digital news and social media spaces, has examined incivility in The New York Times comment section, and has explored ways to encourage people to overcome partisan biases when engaging with digital news. She also enjoys developing innovative research designs, including a new method researchers can use when analyzing large amounts of texts.