How Are You To Know Which Polls To Trust?

2962 words - 12 pages

The results of voter surveys and polls guided the political campaigns of many presidents and their opponents and advised news groups on which political strategies are working. While polls have an important role in the political process, they are anything but perfect tools for measuring and forecasting voter behavior. Public opinion often changes daily or weekly (or so the polls report this to be the case). Further, even worse, competing polls report contradictory results over the same period of time. How are you to know which polls to trust?
There are many reasons why taking a sample is better than taking the entire population. Taking a sample costs less money and takes significantly ...view middle of the document...

3-2). Second, a sampling frame should be selected (p. 3-3). A sampling frame is a document or situation from which a sample is gotten (p. 3-3). Examples could include a phone book, mailing list, or every 10th person waiting in a line (p. 3-3). Third, a random or non-random sampling method must be chosen (p. 3-3). Fourth, the sample size should be determined (p. 3-5). Fifth a technique should be elected for data collection (p. 3-6). Lastly, the sample should be selected (p. 3-6).
There are a variety of factors that play into whether or not polls should be trusted. Gawiser and Witt (n.d.) claim that the only polls that should be trusted and reported are “scientific” polls. Gawiser and Witt also claim that scientific polls are worthy of coverage while unscientific polls lack value. The main difference between polls that should be trusted (scientific) and polls that should not be trusted (unscientific) is who chooses the respondents for the survey (Gawiser & Witt, n.d.). Polls should only be trusted if the person conducting the poll identifies and seeks out the individuals to be interviewed rather than allowing them to volunteer themselves.
There is a broad range of questions that can be asked when trying to determine which polls to trust. As mentioned by Gawiser and Witt (n.d.), it is crucial to first know who conducted the poll, who paid for the poll, and why the poll was done. Gawiser and Witt advise that before trusting a poll, you should know how many people were interviewed for the survey, how they were chosen, and from what area (nation, state, or region) or group (teachers, lawyers, etc.) they were chosen. You should ensure that the reported results are based on the answers of all interviewed individuals rather than a select group. It is also important to know who was not interviewed that should have been, as well as why they were not.
Before making a decision on trusting a poll you should be aware of when it was done and how the interviews were conducted (Gawiser & Witt, n.d.). Key events often have significant impact on poll results. Additionally, whether an interview is conducted in person, by phone, online, or by mail is important to make sure that the survey has proper respondent selection, verifiable age screening, and reasonable response rates (Gawiser & Witt, n.d.). It is essential to be aware of the sampling error for the poll results. Gawiser and Witt warn that you should have knowledge of the confidence level and the margin of error to ensure accuracy among the results. It is extremely beneficial to confirm that poll results have been weighted to reflect unequal probabilities and to adjust the demographics in the sample, but not weighted to produce a desired result (Gawiser & Witt, n.d.).
It is key to know what questions were asked, how they were phrased, and what order they were asked in as well. Gawiser and Witt (n.d) suggest that you verify that the poll you are dealing with is an actual poll rather than...

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