SurveyMonkey Fills the Gap as Traditional Political Polls Flounder
by Tim Higgins
Still dressed in black from a memorial for their CEO Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey executives were confronted with a confounding piece of news. The results of their first big public push into political polling were in — a long-awaited moment of their beloved CEO — and they differed wildly from their competitors’.
The credibility of the company, which Goldberg, a high-profile Silicon Valley personality and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, had headed since 2009, was on the line. So was a bigger question: Could Silicon Valley crack the code to calling elections, an undertaking long dominated by major media and data outlets, and one that has become less and less reliable in recent years.
“We were dressed in black from the memorial, and we said `do we do this?’ We do run a risk if we’re wrong, and what if we are,” Bennett Porter, head of marketing, recalled. “But we knew that we weren’t, and we knew that Dave would’ve wanted us to do it.”
SurveyMonkey’s executives decided to go out on a limb. They gave their predictions to the Washington Post, which published them the day of the election, showing the UK Conservatives trouncing their Labour rivals. Other polls showed the race neck-and-neck. The bet paid off: Conservative Party Leader David Cameron was re-confirmed at the country’s prime minister with a sizable majority.