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This week, Angus Reid Public Opinion - a division of Vision Critical - predicted the outcome of the Wisconsin Gubernatorial Recall Election relying entirely on an online methodology.

The survey conducted on the final days of the campaign gathered the responses of a representative sample of 524 registered voters in the Badger State, and calculated a forecast based on the answers of 507 decided voters. All of these respondents are members of Springboard America, Vision Critical's proprietary panel of adults in the United States.

There were several benefits to conducting this survey online. One of them is the panel's longitudinal capacity. Throughout the years, panelists have provided their responses to a wide variety of questions, allowing researchers to review specific ebbs and flows in public opinion. This data is invaluable when looking at specific trends in the population, on matters ranging from political allegiance to ongoing concerns about domestic issues.

In addition, panelists - unlike respondents to a telephone survey - did not have to go through the exercise of providing demographic data before or after participating in the voting intention component of the research, because that information had already become part of their profile.

This situation provides a double advantage: it facilitates the process of sample selection so that the representativeness of all target groups is assured without trying to seek a specific respondent in a household, and saves time when the survey is being conducted by allowing the respondent to jump into topics quickly. The median completion time for the Wisconsin voting survey was 2 minutes and 9 seconds, an achievement that would be hard to match on the telephone.

Finally, the surveys conducted on Vision Critical's market panels - looking at citizen or customer behaviour - are based upon randomly-selected, representative samples that are statistically weighted according to the most current demographic, regional, and, when warranted, political voting data available.

In the case of Wisconsin, looking at the electorate's behaviour over the course of several elections was indispensable to review how the needle had moved, not only from the standpoint of the previous gubernatorial race, but also to assess the electorate's choices in the last congressional race.

In all, conducting our research online enabled us to be keenly aware of the electorate's previous responses and track them overtime, conduct the survey in a speedier fashion because no new demographic data had to be collected, ensure representativeness, and allow for an appraisal of the electorate's previous behaviour. Clients can rely on these same benefits when they conduct their research on a Market Panel or an Insight Community, knowing that the results will be trustworthy and useful.

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