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Otto Kitsinger / AP

As the polling industry moves online and it becomes less expensive to launch a survey, fake polls (polls that are not conducted properly, or polls that can't be trusted) are going to keep popping up. To help sort through it all, FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten lays out a couple of ground rules.

Make sure they look professional: Check for sloppy mistakes like typos. It likely means the authors of the poll aren't familiar with the content or weren't paying attention like a professional would.

  • Also see where the polling company is located, since without an address, it's probably a fake company. Check when the company was founded. If there's no answer or it was recently, be suspicious.
  • Look at who conducted the poll: Seek out their reputation and their track record. Check if they have a web site beyond a Twitter account.

Look for how the poll was conducted — via phone, internet, Google survey? — to see if the pollster is revealing that information. If they're not transparent, they're likely not professional.

  • Look at the questions in the poll, and especially for political polls, look for questions that go beyond comparing two candidates, including demographic questions, since professional pollsters will want to weight their data. Plus, most professional pollsters want to find out people's reasoning for leaning one way or the other, not just which way they lean.
  • See why a poll was conducted since if they don't tell you, you should be cautious. Academic institutions poll to increase name recognition or educate, professional pollsters to make money, for example.
  • Check when the poll was conducted and how many people it reached since every professional pollster will tell you that since that influences the results and their precision.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

5 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."