Friday, May 21, 2010

Polling Research

It's come time for me to do a little more research on surveys and polls, which I will be using for my paper. Dr. Burton suggested micropoll:

I've also looked at:

I've also researched different polling websites to find cautions or concerns with polling, to determine the best ways to conduct a poll, to get the most useful answers, and use those answers in an ethical way.

The Pew Research Center for The People and the Press ( some useful links about collecting survey data and Questionnaire design, and I've been browsing their website.

The National Council on Public Polls ( also has some good questions to ask of polls to determine their legitimacy, and I'm including a few of those questions below:
  1. Who did the poll?
  2. Who paid for the poll and why was it done?
  3. How many people were interviewed for the survey?
  4. How were those people chosen?
  5. What area (nation, state, or region) or what group (teachers,lawyers, Democratic voters, etc.) were these people chosen from?
  6. Are the results based on the answers of all the people interviewed?
  7. Who should have been interviewed and was not? Or do response rates matter?
  8. When was the poll done?
  9. How were the interviews conducted?
  10. What about polls on the Internet or World Wide Web?
  11. What is the sampling error for the poll results?
  12. Who’s on first?
  13. What other kinds of factors can skew poll results?
  14. What questions were asked?
  15. In what order were the questions asked?
  16. What about "push polls?"
  17. What other polls have been done on this topic? Do they say the same thing? If they are different, why are they different?
  18. What about exit polls?
  19. What else needs to be included in the report of the poll?
  20. So I've asked all the questions. The answers sound good. Should we report the results
So, here are a few questions:

1. What do you think are the limitations of polls and surveys?
2. Do you have any suggestions for survey sites or books that I should look into, either that perform polling functions or that analyze and critique the process? So far I haven't found any specifically dealing with polling in academia.
3. Do you have a favorite polling website, or certain kind of poll/survey that you like?


  1. I think you need to be careful to distinguish between more formal polls (like those conducted professionally or in formal academic ways) and informal polls (more for entertainment or casual data gathering). A poll designed to create or manage interactivity as someone consumes or participates with web content should be structured differently than more professional polls. How does one gather, analyze, and publish the data (however informal)? Keep looking.

  2. I think one of the major limitations of polls is how easily they can be skewed(as mentioned in question 13). By just changing the syntax of the question, or even a single word can yield completely different results. I think another possible limitation is how quickly people have to answer. A survey that gives people time to think about their answers rather than giving snap responses could be either more or less accurate. Here is a blog post that discusses more problems with polls.

  3. I hope I'm not being too broad, but polls are mostly limited by the questions and answers themselves. Most don't allow a lot of wiggle room. Responses tend to be multipal choice or yes/no.

    I think one of the most valuable things in a survey is to have the "other: please specify" option in addition to a few standard multipal choice answers in order to see if people are seeing things differently than expected.

    And no, I don't have any favorite polling website. But I can tell you that having polls turn up in my email inbox is really irksome. But, if it's strategically placed in a website talking about an interesting issue and if by taking it I can see the results of how others have answered in some graph of sorts, I'm a lot more eager to take it.