The Voter's Guide to Election Polls

By Michael W. Traugott; Paul J. Lavrakas | Go to book overview

ple. You read a newspaper article that contains the statement that "polls show that President Clinton's popularity has declined in the last three months." This is a statement about change that appears to be based on polls. The central concept here is "PresidentClinton's popularity," which is typically measured in a single survey question. The minimum condition for comparing the president's popularity would be that the same question was asked in more than one survey, that is, that the question had the same wording and included the same response categories. If two different questions were asked, it is sometimes impossible to evaluate the meaning of the responses, even if the response patterns were apparently the same. So you would want to know the exact question wordings. The importance of this is discussed in greater detail in chapter 7.

A second issue is who was asked the question. If the responses in the early survey were obtained from a representative sample of all Americans and those in the later survey were obtained from a representative sample of Republicans, we would not be surprised to know that Republicans have less favorable views of President Clinton than a sample that contained many Democrats and Independents.

Finally, we would want to know whether any significant events occurred in the period between the first and the second surveys. This might explain why attitudes toward President Clinton had changed between the first and second surveys, suggesting that the change in fact was in an expected direction.


Reference

WEISBERG, HERBERT F., JON A KROSNICK, AND BRUCE D. BOWEN. 1996. An Introduction to Survey Research, Polling, and Data Analysis. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage. This book is divided into three parts: an introduction to survey design, an introduction to data analysis, and a discussion of writing up survey results and ways to analyze results presented by others.

The first section deals with sampling questionnaire design and data collection, including issues of coding. The second section covers univariate and bivariate tabulations, as well as the introduction of third variables as controls and measures of association. Each chapter has a brief set of exercises at the end.

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