QUBE POLL An opinion survey conducted by using cable television to pose questions to viewers. QUBE allows subscribers in Columbus, Ohio, to view debates, speeches, or other public forums, then "vote" their opinions with an electronic keyboard attached to their TV. QUBE has been promoted as a prototype system that would permit virtually instant two-way communication between TV viewers and operators. The concept's potential for opinion research has been widely discussed--attracting both supporters and opponents ( Sabato, 1981:71).
Supporters enthuse about electronic polling and a promise of wider democracy. Public opinion, they believe, can be known instantly--and it will have greater influence on the formulation of public policies. Opponents counter that QUBE-type polling, if widely used, could provoke despotic rule by majority whim. Public policy would be less stable, and subject to sudden shifts in mass opinion.
Pollsters themselves have serious methodological reservations about electronic polls. This type of survey is essentially a straw poll; only QUBE subscribers may participate, and only some of them do. As with all straw polls, the results are suspect, because the sample is nonrandom. Albert H. Cantril, president of the National Council on Public Polls (NCPP), emphasized this point after being asked to comment on a recent QUBE poll:
Such a survey cannot even be construed as a measure of sentiment in Columbus. At $10 a month, poor people were not likely to subscribe to cable, skewing the results. Since those who watch and those who decide to respond are self- selected, this presents a fatal systematic error, even if demographic questions are added to see whom they represent. ( Nieburg, 1984:63)