Polling is an important tool to measure the public’s feeling on any given topic. The idea of a poll is supposed to be both scientific and unbiased.
Obviously there are some flaws in how they are executed from time to time, and results can easily be manipulated by those seeking to be unscrupulous. Likewise, polls can sometimes be gamed by the participants to produce a result that is not ideal just because it’s funny; just look at the tale of Boaty McBoatface to see that in action.
Regardless of how it happens, sometimes poll results come back and they offer up something no one could have expected.
10. Jesus and Ric Flair Nearly Won a Time Person of the Century Poll
In the early days of online polling, few organizations realized what a can of worms they were opening by letting people online offer their own answers to questions. It’s one thing to have a poll with a yes or no toggle, or maybe a few choices they can click. It’s another to let people write in their answers.
As the year 2000 approached, Time magazine had the lofty idea to run a poll to decide who the Person of the Century might be. Millions of people voted. But Time was not aware of how certain groups might band together and vote multiple times to skew the outcome of such a poll. But skew, they did.
Fans of former wrestling superstar Ric Flair put in the effort to make their man the hero of the previous hundred years. Over 310,000 were logged for Flair putting him in second place behind another person who technically shouldn’t have qualified: Jesus.
Coming in third place with over 100,000 votes was Adolf Hitler, proving the poll had become deeply unserious. The editors of Time removed Jesus for having not been born in the century, and Hitler for being Hitler.
Their reasons for axing Flair was that he was actually a character played by Richard Fliehr, Flair’s real name, making him unqualified as well.
9. Astronomers Polled The Public to Choose the Name of the Color of the Universe
Sometimes you need to get creative to get people interested in science. Astronomers at Johns Hopkins University took this to heart when they revised their findings on the color of the universe.
Originally they had calculated that the universe, when everything was evened out, was aquamarine, but that was a mistake. So they went back to the drawing board, did some more colorful math, and came up with a new color. Beige. The universe is, more or less, beige. But in the interests of keeping this fun they solicited suggestions from the public about what to name the specific beige that the universe is. The answer they decided on was cosmic latte.
8. Kurt Russell Was Polled as Having Zero Unlikeability
Are you a fan of Kurt Russell? Statistically speaking it seems like there’s a good chance you are, because polling suggests everyone likes Kurt Russell, or at least they used to at one time.
Though it’s hard to say what Russell’s best movie is, or his most popular one, he’s had plenty of memorable ones. This includes movies like The Thing, Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China, as well as his turn as Captain Jack O’Neill in 1994’s Stargate. The movie spawned a series of successful TV shows and even though Russell wasn’t in them, he’s still forever connected to one of sci-fi’s biggest franchises as a result. And he also got double his salary to be in it thanks to poll results.
Back in 1994, Russell was the only actor in Hollywood to poll with zero unlikeability. According to Russell, the role was not necessarily a likable one, so they needed an actor who everyone already loved to make it work. And it secured him a good payday to do it.
7. Mountain Dew Polled Users for a New Name That Resulted in Chaos
In 2012, Mountain Dew came up with the somewhat cleverly named “Dub the Dew” contest where participants could choose a name for the newest Mountain Dew flavor. Popular vote in the poll would be the winner.
In a twist everyone today would see coming, the top spots in the poll went to “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong,” “Diabeetus” and something vaguely offensive about grandmothers. Someone even hacked the site to include a thank you to the Israeli Mossad for orchestrating 9/11 as well as some links that rickrolled users.
Naturally none of those names could be chosen so the whole site was scrapped and the company forgot the idea altogether.
6. Only 15% of Americans Polled Thought We’d Reach The Moon By 1999
A poll is one of the most interesting ways to gain insight into human thought because it’s considered scientific and yet is totally unbound by any logic at the best of times. You literally just ask people what they think no matter how ill-informed they may be on a topic. You can find a fun example of this in Gallup’s polling about scientific advances from the year 1949.
Back then, the pollsters asked participants about what they thought the future held. Prognostication is, of course, one of the least accurate sciences out there but if you’re just looking for gut feelings from the rabble, then it doesn’t matter.
According to the 1949 poll, only 15% of Americans believed a person would have set foot on the moon by 1999. However, in the same poll those people proved far less cynical about medicine. Results showed 88% of responders assumed we’d have cancer cured by 1999.
If you thought maybe the concept of a moon-landing maybe just sounded too far-fetched for the public of 1949, it’s worth noting that 63% of them were on board with the idea of nuclear-powered cars and airplanes as being a reality by 1999.
5. A Poll To Choose the Best Rock Supergroup Ever Picked a Band That Already Exists
Fan-casting movies is a pretty popular pastime these days, where people pick who they think would make the best cast for the latest superhero movie or anime adaptation. But it hasn’t always been something that only applies to TV and film. There’s a history of fan-casting musical groups as well. Just imagine right now who you think you could put together to create the absolute best musical supergroup of all time.
A British poll asked music fans to do just that back in 2005. It tasked them with picking the best lead singer, the best guitar player, the best bassist and the best drummer. Any musician could be picked to fill those positions, so you’re talking about Freddie Mercury, Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon… anyone.
Inexplicably, the poll resulted in Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin being chosen as best singer, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin as best guitar player, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin as bass player and John Bonham of, you guessed it, Led Zeppelin as best drummer. So the dream team musical supergroup was Led Zeppelin, exactly as they had always been.
4. Polling Showed Justin Bieber Was More Hated Than Convicted Murderers
You may not know this if you’re a younger music fan but, once upon a time, people absolutely hated Justin Bieber. Just despised the kid. And the virulent hatred went well beyond the typical dislike you might feel for a musician you’re not particularly fond of.
In 2013, Bieber scored high marks for unlikeability in a poll that focused only on musicians. He ranked at 54% unfavorable and only 20% likable. Only Chris Brown scored as being less likable, and this was at the height of Chris Brown’s numerous legal issues.
Just one year later, a larger poll that extended beyond the realm of music saw Bieber rank as the 5th most hated man in America. If that seems harsh, it is. But it gets worse. This poll ranked him more hated than Phil Spector who was serving a life sentence for murder at the time. He also ranked above Aaron Hernandez who’d just been arrested for three murders the year before.
So who outranked Bieber? OJ Simpson managed a little more hate, as did Bernie Madoff. Michael Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray made the top of the list and the number one spot went to racist LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
3. A Japanese Poll Chose Ramen as the Country’s Greatest Invention
How much do you know about Japanese innovation? The country has a reputation as a tech hub and the source of many modern electronics.
Historically, we have a lot to thank Japan for. The Sony Walkman, VHS video, karaoke, emojis, aircraft carriers, LED lights, the list is extensive. But what would be the best invention? The greatest thing the country ever did for themselves and the world at large?
This is a question that will come up in the media of probably every country. There are plenty of lists of the “Greatest American Inventions” or the “Greatest Canadian Inventions” so it’s no surprise Japan would have one, but what may be surprising is one the Japanese people themselves chose as number one.
2. 17% of AirPod Users Wear Them During Sex
So, do you wear AirPods? Since the wireless headphones first debuted they’ve become a go-to accessory for millions of people. You’ll see countless folks out and about with a pair in their ears letting them be blissfully unaware of the noise of the world around them, or at least pretend to be in the hopes that people won’t annoy them.
A survey of just over 1,000 people conducted by a ticket selling platform was looking into the intersection of music and sex because sure, why not? Based on their results, they determined that a full 17% of respondents who own AirPods don’t bother to take them out during sex.
They did not make it clear what, if anything, the people wearing AirPods are listening to. It was also unclear if their partners were doing it as well.
1. 4% of Americans Said They’d Been Decapitated
There is clear evidence not every poll is reliable. Pollsters know this as well as anyone. The numbers suggest between 4% and 7% of answers to an online poll are going to be bogus. There can be many reasons for this as well. Someone is intentionally skewing results, someone misunderstood a question or the answers, or someone was just rushing to get it done and didn’t pay attention chief among them. For that reason, that caveat of a plus or minus number often accompanies the results of any poll to account for results.
You can find an example of this in the fact 4% of Americans polled said they had been decapitated at some point in their lives. As far as medical science knows, few people survive having their heads removed long enough to answer polls, so this result was worthy of some skepticism.
The fact that this happens has been great fodder for pop journalism over the years. Reports that 7% of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows is probably a clear example of this. It makes a funny headline and people will joke about how stupid 7% of the country is, but in context the numbers fit. It’s unclear how the question was worded, as well.
If respondents were asked simply “where does chocolate milk come from?” or maybe something more leading could have resulted in people thinking the question was so absurd they answer “brown cows” as a joke. If it was an option, they were able to select, some people may not have even read the question fully. It’s hard to say how it all played out but rest assured that 4% of the country has not been decapitated and most people are probably aware of chocolate milk’s origin.