Dictionary of Polling: The Language of Contemporary Opinion Research

By Michael L. Young | Go to book overview
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H

HAPHAZARD SAMPLE eui CONVENIENCE SAMPLE.

HARD DATA Pollster jargon for respondent answers to factual or objective questions. Hard data comes from "hard" questions: how old are you? Are you employed? Do you own a car? Are you registered to vote? What is your annual income?

Hard data is factual and descriptive; its "hardness" derives from two characteristics: first, it provides specific, concrete, and tangible information. A researcher can specify exactly what is meant by being unemployed, having some college, being Hispanic, or not voting recently. Second, hard data can be verified by consulting records, family members, or other sources. If a respondent claims to be a college graduate, it can be checked. When someone reports they are registered to vote, it can be verified.

Hard data is not the only way to classify poll responses. There is also soft data, which is pollster jargon for answers given to opinion or subjective questions. Soft data comes from soft questions ( Bohrnstedt, 1983:81), such as: are you in good, fair, or poor health? Do you think of yourself as a conservative, moderate, or liberal? What is the most important problem facing the nation today?

Soft data deals with opinions, attitudes, feelings, and impressions rather than facts or knowledge.

The hard-soft distinction has two practical implications. First, hard data is generally considered more trustworthy than soft data. Respondents are more likely to "get it right" and report it accurately. Second, hard data questions are usually easier to ask and answer than are soft ones--both respondents and interviewers are taxed less. Occasionally, the hard-soft distinction is treated as

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