If you want to know how the presidential election will turn out, you may need to check out an Xbox.
Microsoft has morphed overnight into one of the most robust polling institutions in the nation by leveraging a massive and engaged user base on Xbox Live for an interactive experiment in political engagement.
Xbox owners who subscribe to the digital media service Xbox Live are flocking to the new Election 2012 hub, with interactive features on politics and interactive polls on a daily basis and during the debates. The polls, which are produced in partnership with YouGov, are drawing at least 10,000 participants each day (though Microsoft will only say that the debates "far exceeded" this number), with about 20 percent returning on a recurring basis to register how their views evolve, officials said.
To put that in perspective: Typical statewide surveys will include anywhere from 500 to 1,400 voters depending on the size of the state. The Rasmussen Daily National Presidential Tracking Poll surveys 500 likely voters per night and has a 3 percent margin of error. So you begin to see the value of a reliable group of 10,000 -- 30 percent of whom make up the coveted group of undecideds and "leaners."
"When we look at Xbox, we don't look at it as a console anymore," said Jose Pinero, senior director, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business "It's a very powerful platform. "
The Xbox election hub has been streaming the debates live and presenting viewers with questions that can be answered by using their gaming controller or via motion gestures that are recognized by Kinect. The results are shown to the participants live.
The debate last week featured 10 questions, with undecideds breaking for Mitt Romney and President Obama "consistently losing support from his base," an Xbox spokesman said. Microsoft plans to make the full results of its polling public in the coming days.
"We've been getting a tremendous amount of engagement," said David Rothschild, a staff economist at Microsoft Research who is working on the polls. "People are enjoying it."
It's true that the Xbox oversamples a certain group of the population, but that doesn't mean valuable data can't be sifted out.
"We know the Xbox community isn't representative of the general public," Rothschild said. "But we also know that somewhere in there is a subset that is representative."
The researchers are working on ways to identify that subset right now, he said.
"We have oversampling of the hardest-to-get demographic, young men and young working families," he said. "But this is the future of polling. It's the future of interactive TV. And we're excited to be a part of it."
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