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Opinion Polls

Learn what are opinion polls, types of questions used, advantages, and look at the opinion poll example.

Opinion-polls

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What do you mean by opinion polls

Opinion polls are similar to surveys or an inquiry designed to gauge public opinion about a specific issue or a series of issues in a scientific and unbiased manner. Previously, polls used to be one-on-one interviews wherein a trained interviewer would ask questions to randomly chosen people representing the population.>

With the evolution of online surveys, traditional polling methods became distinct. Now online polls conducted using an online poll maker software rule the polling methods. Furthermore, the online polling tools help in selecting a random sample of everyone in the population, ensuring unbiasedness in the poll results.

The development of 'public opinion' as a concept, intimately connects to social, political, and economic changes that occurred over centuries. By 1936, people truly became aware of something called public opinion polls. Not long after that, some people started to think that such polling practices are a threat to democracy. In addition to that, people began to question the legitimacy and method used to conduct polls.

An exciting fact about polls - people believe in poll results, but not many believe in the scientific principles on which polling methods are based. Conversely, many people believe that opinion polls do a commendable job when it comes to predicting election outcomes or while measuring public outcomes on specific social issues. Even then, researchers conduct opinion polls, people participate in them and provide us a way to understand how people think and feel about any given topic

Opinion polls example

On April-14 2019, CBS News conducted a series of public opinion polls to understand how many people think marijuana should be legalized. The result was terrific, a record high of 65% of people expressed their view in favor of marijuana legalization.

The CBS News conducted a series of opinion polls. The poll questions were focused on marijuana and its legalization. In the same polling series, they asked, 'Do they support for legal marijuana use?' 65% said yes.

One of the questions they asked in the same series was 'Compared to most drugs, legal marijuana's impact on society is…?' 66% said less dangerous.

The next poll was with a question 'Legalizing marijuana use is…?' 52% polled in favor saying 'good for the local economy.'

Interestingly, CBS News linked their poll with the upcoming presidential election. The last question of the polling series was 'If presidential candidate supported legal marijuana…?' But the poll result dismayed many. About 56% of people said it made no difference to their voting choice.

Reference: www.cbsnews.com/news/support-for-marijuana-legalization-hits-new-high-cbs-news-poll-finds/

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Essential ingredients of an opinion poll

Setting up a sample

There are different ways to set up a sample. However, the two most commonly used methods perceived by many polling organizations are (1) The controlled sample method and (2) Area sampling method.

Controlled Sample:

In a controlled sample method, the sample is set in a controlled manner, ensuring it contains a variety of people from different walks of life making up for the whole population. Before actually setting a controlled sample, there are a few questions to be answered

For example, what people will bring value to the cross-section of a public opinion poll? Why everyone has a different reaction to public questions? Do poor and rich people have different views on politics? Why are people in the south not much concerned about the pressing issues in the north or west-coast region?

Come up with similar questions, and you will feel the necessity to include people from all sections and all corners to make up a national sample. In a controlled sample, equal farmers and city dwellers are considered as a different set of people having different views on a particular topic.

The polling organizations were addressing the sample setting issue for years. Finally, they came up with mathematical techniques to set up samples. Although, the theory they put forth is not an absolute solution, great care while selecting and setting up the sample reduces the margin of error. Here are a few considerations to choose the right sample

  1. Section of the country - East, South, North, Middle West, or West
  2. Type of community - big city, small city, village, or farm
  3. Standard of living - poor, average, or wealthy
  4. Gender - male, or female
  5. Age - youth, middle-aged, or senior citizen

Pollsters or researchers must understand that, before setting up the sample, certain facts about the population must be understood and followed to ensure accuracy and effectiveness. If possible gather population figures from the latest census reports or use trusted external sources to know how effectively you can set up a miniature population sample. With a proper understanding of the representing population, an accurate sample can easily be arranged consisting of an equal percentage of males and females, different age groups, economic classes, living styles, and communities.

Area Sample:

The area sample over the years is becoming more favorable to researchers and pollsters. In an area sample, the cross-section or the miniature sample is set up based on a cross-section of the area and not of people. Setting up an area sample is relatively easy. In an area sample, the information related to different geographies such as countries, states, cities, villages, or towns can be easily acquired through census reports and other sources.

To cross-section the areas in an elaborate manner, a distinct insight gathered from polling organizations helps a lot. It helps in distinguishing cities into bigger, medium, or smaller and villages based on their per capita income, education, etc. and knowing towns within the borders. A typical area sample consists of several small areas such as townships, small sections of the big cities, blocks in the villages, etc. The sample is set and chosen by ensuring that the sum of the areas represents an accurate miniature model of the population anticipated to participate in the opinion polls.

Phrasing the questions

Indeed, setting up a sample is an essential ingredient of the opinion poll. Nevertheless, phrasing questions in the right manner to yield excellent results also has equal importance.

Before phrasing the question, you must be aware that a poll question has to be neutral. Hence, avoid 'loaded' or 'leading' questions which might jeopardize the transparency and authenticity of the entire poll results.

For example, For example, Let's analyze the poll question "Is the government forcing its health-related schemes on the people?"

Well, don't you think different people will take various meanings of the question only because of the word 'force'? Do you know it will be complicated as heck to interpret the answers to this question? Now, we will consider another question "Have you ever read a book?" Don't you think the question itself insults the poll participants? Moreover, the question is too general and will yield vague answers. Avoid such questions.

Ensure the poll questions are phrased clearly and concisely so that respondents or participants do not misunderstand the question and its intent.

For example, during one of the polls conducted during a gulf war, it was found out that the word 'salvage' has a different meaning for different people. Some thought it meant 'paper and tin can drive' and for some, it said 'bring the boys back home.' Thus, using such a word in question phrasing would mean an increase in the margin of error leading to a discrepancy in results.

Focus on picking questions with which the participants could easily connect for answering in an unbiased manner. As far as possible, avoid complicated or technical questions failing to connect with the audience as such questions will again yield meaningless answers.

Make it a common practice to test the poll and question phrase by asking a small group of people to participate in the test poll. Motivate colleagues and friends to participate in the test poll and get their feedback to either move on or iterate the poll further. However, trying it out on a small number of a random sample is the best way to test your poll.

Questions to ask in an opinion poll

It is hard to recommend a question type or a precise question to ask in an opinion poll. Generally, the type of poll question depends on the motive behind the opinion poll or the kind of information a researcher intends to gather from it.

Closed questions: The most common type of poll question is the one where respondents have to answer in either 'yes' or 'no' format. Such questions are helpful when the issues concerning polls are out there in public, and they have already formed an opinion regarding that issue.

Close-Ended-Questions

For instance, consider this question, 'Do you think mutual funds are a good investment option?' The answer options will be 'yes', 'no,' and 'can't say.' By adding a third option 'can't say' you are giving a fair chance to the respondents who do not have a fixed opinion about the question.

Open-ended questions: Also called as free questions are also widely used in the polls. These questions allow participants to express themselves freely and at length. Open-ended questions are useful when researchers want to identify the various lines of thinking people possess concerning a specific issue.

Open-Ended-Questions

For example, Organizations often conduct internal opinion polls to understand employees. An open-ended question in the opinion poll allows participant employees to express themselves freely.

Multiple choice questions: IThe majority of opinion polls are designed with multiple-choice questions. In a multiple-choice question, the answer options are grouped in the form of a checklist, and participants are allowed to choose either one or multiple choices. When researchers want to know how strongly people feel about a pressing social issue or to understand how well informed people are about an issue affecting society, they prefer multiple choice questions in their opinion polls.

Multiple-choice-questions

For example, "Which of the following statements comes closer to your thinking about the H-1B visa workers in America?"

  • H-1B visa workers are a burden on American society as they claim jobs, healthcare, and other facilities that are meant for America public.
  • H-1B visa workers are filling the jobs that most of the American workers can perform easily.
  • Not Decided

Good Poll Questions

Advantages of public opinion polls

Public opinion polls are a definitive way to determine what specific people of certain population strata belonging to a particular demographics think or feel about a given subject. The public opinion polls ask participants specific questions related to specific issues with a motive to study the publics' perspective. Depending on the insights received researchers can then strategize targeted actions. Here are the advantages of public opinion polls.

Online opinion polls have a wider reach

We are living in a world dominated by technology and gadgets. Today, the majority of people spend most of their time browsing the internet, either through a computer or through their mobile phones. Additionally, modern browsers have made it easier to answer a poll quickly in between the tasks. Poll responses dramatically increase when they are easily made available on different digital screens.

Online public opinion polls are easier to respond

We are living in a world dominated by technology and gadgets. Today, the majority of people spend most of their time browsing the internet, either through a computer or through their mobile phones. Additionally, modern browsers have made it easier to answer a poll quickly in between the tasks. Poll responses dramatically increase when they are easily made available on different digital screens.

Public opinion poll serves an essential aspect of democracy

A public opinion poll signifies the importance of citizens and their opinions. It allows citizens to express their feelings or cast their views pertaining to a specific issue. It is like people exercising their right to freedom of expression granted to them as a citizen of the country.

Public opinion polls are faster and more accurate

Opinion polls, when conducted using online poll software increases its effectiveness and precision. If you have the right sample chosen scientifically, conducting polls becomes easier. The entire process is digital and automatic yields digital data, making it possible to track responses in real-time. Additionally, the analytic tools and ability to present results in graphical and weighted format reduces the possibility of human errors.

Public opinion polls have become as common as apple pie. Based on a set of written questions opinion polls are used to determine

  • what people believe,
  • how they feel about an issue, and
  • in what way will they act.

Researchers use the outcomes of an opinion poll in versatile ways. Besides, public opinion polls are influencing the political arena. Opinion polls are being used by the candidates and media throughout the election campaign to predict which candidates have higher chances to emerge victoriously.

An interactive online poll software helps a great deal in creating and conducting free opinion polls. Many organizations prefer to use poll software due to its easy user interface, availability of poll templates, and options to distribute and analyze the poll outcomes.

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