About this web site
Opinion polls of our visitors
Reason for the polls
In order to learn more about the people who visit our web site, we
installed a series of polls powered by Freepolls.com 1
Hopefully, we will be able to gain insight from these polls that will help
us select which essays need to be created or enhanced on our web site.
Assuming that the subjects were randomly chosen, a margin of error of 2% means that an individual datum is
accurate to within ±2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. i.e. if the poll were repeated
20 times, with the same number of contributors, then a given value would
typically be within 2 percentage points, for 19 of the repeats.
"The margin of error in a sample = 1 divided by the square root of
the number of people in the sample." Thus, with 1,865 responses, the
margin of error is 1/ 1865 exp -0.5 = .023 = ±2.3%. 2,3
However, in these polls, the subjects were
self-selected. Normal calculations of margin of error do not apply. The poll
is liable to be inaccurate for a number of reasons:
- Many of our readers are students. The percentage of students
probably varies greatly from month to month during the year --
reaching a peak during the academic season, and a minimum during
- Our readers live in over 75 countries around the world, not just in
the U.S. and Canada.
- Internet users tend to have above-average technical knowledge and
are atypical in other ways.
- The age distribution of our readers probably does not match that of
the U.S. population.
- We don't know why about 2,000 of our readers answered each poll,
while a much larger number did not.
- Some of our readers may have voted more than one time.
First poll: Religious affiliation
From 1999-NOV-4 to 13, we asked what our readers' religious affiliation
was. We received 1,865 responses, giving a margin of error of
Unfortunately, the poll at the time only allowed 5 options. Thus, we
received a lot of "other" responses.
||Poll % response
||In U.S. population
|Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist, etc.
|Wicca and other Neopagan
Obviously, the individuals who answered our poll are atypical of the
U.S. or North America. We are at a complete loss to understand the
Wiccan/Neopagan response. Neopagans that probably constitute about 0.1% of
the North American population generated 13% of the response. This is an
over-representation of about 130 times! We have seen this sort of
relationship before on the Internet.
- Our heavy concentration on Christian topics is probably worthwhile,
since about half of our readers are Christian
- We should lay greater emphasis on topics of interest to non-theists
- When we repeat the survey, we should include more options, including Islam, New
Age, Eastern and Caribbean religions.
Second poll: When does human personhood begin?
From 1999-NOV-14 to DEC-20, we asked our readers' when
they believed that life became human life. A consensus exists among
pro-life and pro-choice factions that when life becomes a human person
that the pregnancy process should not be halted, unless it is for some
very unusual reasons. Unfortunately, there is little agreement about when
that transition occurs. We received 1,951 responses, giving a margin of error of
|At what point at or after conception does human
|At implantation in the womb
|When the fetal heart starts beating
|By the end of the 1st trimester
|By the end of the 2nd trimester
|When the fetus is viable - can live on its own
|When the fetal brain matures
- One of the participants suggested that our second option may not be
clear to the public. After conception, the fertilized ovum descends to
the womb and implants itself in the wall of the uterus. This is the
point at which pregnancy begins, according to physicians.
- Another participant wondered if there was an organized effort by
outside groups to manipulate the answers. We are inclined to think
not. We have seen many polls that initially showed one pattern of
response, and then shifted to a different pattern after word was
spread about the poll. That did not happen here; the "at
conception" and "at birth" percentages remained
essentially constant throughout the life of the poll.
- We were surprised at the large percentage of respondents who judged
the heart beat as the start of personhood.
- We received quite a few comments that were unrelated to the question
asked, such as:
- "All religions are not alike." [We don't say
that they are; religions are quite different. We just promote the
right of people to hold whatever beliefs they wish.
- "Gays and lesbians should never have equal rights as
normal God fearing people." [Although all of the people
producing this web site are heterosexuals, we know quite a few
gays and lesbians. Most of them are normal God-fearing people.]
We were amazed at the large number of our readers who believe that
human personhood starts at the instant of conception. We assumed that most of
our readers would put the time of translation well into pregnancy. We were
also surprised by a few people who left comments about life starting after
Third poll: Visitor demographics:
From 1999-DEC-20 to 2000-FEB-17, we asked our visitors about themselves. We
received about 1155 responses. The margin of error is 2.9%:
- 44% are students
- 34% work for a company or agency
- 11% are self-employed
- 6% are retired
- 5% are unemployed
- 78% live in the U.S.
- 10% live in Canada
- 6% live in Europe or Russia
- 2% live in Australia
- 1% live in each of the following locations: Far East, Africa,
Central/South America, and the Middle East.
- 51% female
- 48% male
- 1% intersexual
- 0.2% are 12 or under
- 23% are 13 to 18
- 32% are 19 to 29
- 16% are 30 to 39
- 15% are 40 to 49
- 9% are 50 to 59
- 3% are 60 to 69
- 1% are over 70
- Personal religion:
- 36% are not part of an organized religion
- 19% are Neopagans
- 14% are liberal Christians
- 10% are mainline Christians
- 5% are conservative Christians
- 3% are fundamentalist Christians
- 2% are Jews
- 13% follow other religions
Quite a few individuals who filled out our poll complained that there
were not enough options in the personal religion question. We were limited
to eight options by the Freepolls.com software.
We were somewhat surprised at the large number of student visitors to
our site. We had observed a wide fluctuation in the number of hits per
month during each year. The variation is synchronized to the academic
year. But we did not realize that students formed the single largest group
among our visitors.
The geographic distribution of our visitors was close to what we
expected. The overwhelming number of Emails that we receive come either
from the U.S. or Canada, so we assumed that site visitors did as well.
Neopagans are enormously over-represented. Most sources estimate that about 0.2% of the American population are followers of Wicca or other
Neopagan traditions. But 19% of the visitors who answered our poll
identified themselves as Neopagans. This did not surprise us. We have seen
similar results on other polls. The cause of the over-representation remains a mystery.
- Freepolls.com is provided by VantageNet, Inc. Their web site
is at: http://ads.freepolls.com/
- "The margin of error calculator," at: http://www.mrmprojects.com/margin.htm
- "So how come a survey of 1,600 people can tell me what 250 million
are thinking," RobertNiles.com at: http://nilesonline.com/stats/sample.shtml
Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-13
Latest update: 2010-DEC-08
Author: B.A. Robinson