Polling Fundamentals Sections

This tutorial offers a glimpse into the fundamentals of public opinion polling. Designed for the novice, Polling Fundamentals provides definitions, examples, and explanations that serve as an introduction to the field of public opinion research.
Understanding tables

Understanding the Numbers Presented in Tables

There are some tables that are straightforward. The Roper Center’s iPOLL database offers the top-line results to survey questions–toplines are how the full aggregated sample answered the questions.

iPOLL example:
You might say that the public is evenly split on judging the integrity of pollsters, according to this November 2002 telephone conducted by Harris Interactive and obtained from the Roper Center at the Cornell University.

Harris Poll [November, 2002]

Would you generally trust each of the following types of people to tell the truth, or not? …Pollsters

44% Would trust

43% Would not

13% Not sure/Refused

Methodology: Conducted by Harris Interactive, November 14-November 18, 2002 and based on telephone interviews with a national adult sample of 1,010. [USHARRIS.112702.R1O]

Data provided by The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Cornell University.

Crosstabulation tables can be more complicated. Crosstabs offer a look at how different groups within the sample answered the question. In other words, the table below can be summarized in this manner:

A New York Times poll in June 2000 found that among whites, 81% thought race relations in their community were “good”, while 72% of black respondents found this to be the case. Conversely, 14% of whites and 22% of blacks identified their community race relations as “bad”. Among those who identified with the “other” race category, 79%responded good and 18% bad to the question of race relations in their community. There were too few Asians in the sample to be able to statistically rely upon the percentages. These data were provided by the Roper Center at the Cornell University.

Cells contain:
-Column %
-N of cases
Are you white, black, Asian, or some other race?
Do you think race relations in YOUR COMMUNITY are generally good or generally bad? White Black or
African-American
Asian Other Refused
Row
Total
Good 81.4
1409
72.4
171
91.5
21
79.0
124
63.6
12
80.2
1737
Bad 13.8
239
21.7
51
8.5
2
18.4
29
32.0
6
15.1
327
Don’t Know/
No Answer
4.8
83
6.0
14
0
0
2.6
4
4.4
1
4.7
102
Col. Total 100.0
1730
100.0
237
100.0
23
100.0
157
100.0
18
100.0
2165

Source: New York Times Poll, Race Relations in America, June 2000
Data provided by the Roper Center at the Cornell University.
For further information please contact The Roper Center at 607.255.8129 or support@ropercenter.org.