Polls

Fans are constantly sending out opinion or merit polls and questionnaires, and sometimes publish results. The FANAC and SKYRACK polls are the chief fanzine polls in the U.S. and Britain in recent years. Merit polls within apas include the Egoboo Poll (FAPA) and Pillar Poll (SAPS).

from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959
The first fan poll was Speer's IPO (Oklahoma Institute of Private Opinion; title a takeoff on Gallup), hektoed postcards circulated with The SF Fan for a couple of years around 1938. While this was still running, the fanzine Novae Terrae put out a questionnaire with each issue, called Panel of Critics, which contained some questions on the magazine and some personal and other general questions. Afterward LeZombie and others from time to time took polls, but Art Widner's Poll Cat made the things famous in fandom.

Widner had previously run polls in several major fanzines, but in the Poll Cat he set out to test the thesis that fans are a separate and distinct type (slans or whatever you want to call them). Looking for unusual averages in fans, Widner found several characteristics that looked significant, such as longevity of grandparents, larger hat size, and greater height, but some criticism by Harry Warner cast doubt on their validity.

Poll-questions are usually of three types: opinions on top fans and pros, authors, artists or editors; best-remembered fantascene, etc; opinions on religion, politics, ktp; and personal data like age, national extraction, and introvert characteristics. Another type of poll is that which is taken (usually on a loose poll sheet folded in with the fanzine) in determining reader reaction to material in the issue. Results are given in the following issue. Sometimes other questions are asked, such as "What story in ASF during the past 12 months would you like to see a sequel to?" or "Do you think it is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan?"

The gremlins of polls are several. Worst is the jerk who receives a postcard to answer on and doesn't do anything about it; these usually run around 50% of the total coverage. Another offender is the guy who won't give a straight answer to the question, but thinks the card is better used for wise cracks, which are appreciated not. And there is the problem of getting a representative sample of fans. The Poll Cat did best at this when his requests and reports were appearing in many different subscription fanzines, but even he had trouble with a lot of fans from a given locality ganging up and sending in votes for the leading fan in their puddle as being top fan of the world, etc. Other polls have had even worse luck in this regard. Even if the fanzine they are circulated with cuts a good cross-section of fandom, the replies are likely to be weighted toward the writers, etc, appearing in that fanzine, because it is in the replier's mind when he answers, and the colossal fanzine which appeared a month ago, and convention and club activities, are more dimly remembered. There is also a tendency to vote the polltaker higher among the top fans than would be done on somebody else's poll, which led Widner modestly to leave himself entirely out in reporting results.
from Fancyclopedia 1 ca. 1944
The first fan poll was the IPO. While it was till running, the fanzine Novae Terrae put out a questionnaire with each issue, called Panel of Critics, which contained some questions on the magazine and some personal and other general questions. Afterwards, Le Zombie and other fanzines from time to time took a poll, but the Poll Cat made the things famous in fandom.

Questions are usually of three types; Opinions on top fan, author, pro, best-remembered fantascene, etc; opinions on religion, Michelism, &c; and personal data, which as age, national extraction, and introvert characteristics.

Sometimes the fan's name is required on poll answers, sometimes they are at least nominally treated as anonymous.

The gremlins of polls are several. Worst is the jerk who receivers a postcard to reply on and doesn't do anything about it; these usually run around 50% of the total coverage. Another offender is the guy who won't give a straight answer to the question but thinks the card is better used for wise cracks, which are quite unappreciated. Finally, there is the problem of getting a representative sample of the fans. The Poll Cat did best at this when his request and reports were appearing in many different subscription fanzines, but even he had trouble with a lot of fans from a given locality ganging up and sending in votes for the leading fan in their puddle as being top fan of the world, etc. Other polls have had worse luck in this regard. Even if the fanzines they are circulated with cuts a good cross-section of fandom, the replies are likely to be weighted toward the writers, etc, appearing in the fanzine, because it is in the replier's mind when he answers, and the colossal fanzine which appeared a month ago, and convention and club activities, are more dimly remembered. There is also a tendency to vote the poll-taker higher among the top fans than would be done on someone else's poll. Widner modestly left himself out entirely in reporting the results.