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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 18:52 GMT
The BBC News Online 1000

By ICM's Matthew Burn

In the run up to the election the media and politicians alike will focus their attention on the polling results that will become available.

The new communications technology explosion means that an increasing variety of polling methods are being used to try to uncover the opinions of the UK electorate.

Hence, apart from traditional polling methods such as face-to-face and telephone there are also polls such as the BBC News Online polls being conducted using an online methodology.

ICM Research has already recruited an online panel of 2,000 people for BBC News Online and is using the panel to track voter attitudes to the parties and the campaign issues.

Such research is easily criticised simply because only around 50% of the population is available online and the demographic profile of the online population is quite different to the whole population.

Yet these polls, when weighted appropriately, produce very credible results.

The rationale for sponsors of such surveys will be to show that plausible and robust data can be collected using the new technology they hope to sell in a variety of commercial environments.

The BBC News Online Polling has so far yielded very credible results.

The panel itself consists of approximately 2,000 people who are recruited via telephone to be representative of the UK adult population and hence are NOT representative of UK internet users.

Each month - and then every week in the 3 weeks prior to the election - panel members are sent an e-mail to let them know that there is a questionnaire for them to complete and the web address.

So far, like other internet studies ICM has found that approximately half of all those contacted go on to complete the survey.

Those who no longer wish to participate are replaced with a new panel member of a similar social-economic background.

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