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.
Polling fundamentals for the novice


What is a public opinion poll?

A poll is a type of survey or inquiry into public opinion conducted by interviewing a random sample of people.

What’s a random sample?

A random sample is the result of a process whereby a selection of participants is made from a larger population and each subject is chosen entirely by chance.

When I receive some survey calls, they’re trying to sell me something. Is this a public opinion poll?

No. Telemarketing calls are different from public opinion polls. A telemarketer’s objective is to sell you something, rather than learn of your opinions-although sometimes he or she will disguise the motive with a few questions first. The goal of the public opinion pollster is to measure the views of the targeted sample in the population.

Why haven’t I been asked to participate in a national opinion poll?

The US Census tells us there are more than 200 million American adults and most polls generally include about 1,000 respondents. So if 2,500 national polls are completed each year, only 2,500,000 people will be interviewed. Assuming no one is interviewed more than once, the odds of being called in any given year are just over 1 in 100.

Why should I participate in an opinion poll?

Public policy decisions are being made all the time. There are all sorts of interest groups who are making their positions known to those decision-makers. The public opinion poll provides an opportunity for the voices of the common man and woman to be heard. So, why wouldn’t you want your views represented? It’s your privilege in a democratic society!
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