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Definition of opinion polls: Opinion polls are described as surveys or an inquiry designed to gauge public opinion about a certain 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 polls, traditional polls 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 is intimately connected to social, political and economic changes that occurred over centuries. By 1936, people truly became aware of something called public opinion polls and not long after that, some people started to think that such polls are a threat to democracy. In addition to that, people started to question the legitimacy and method used to conduct polls. The interesting fact about polls - people believe in poll results, but not many believe in the scientific principles on which polls are based. Even today many people believe that polls definitely do a commendable job when it comes to predicting election outcomes and while measuring public outcome on certain social issues. Yet, polls are conducted, people participate in them and provide us a way to understand how people think and feel about any given topic.
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 amazing, a record high of 65% of people expressed their opinion in favor of marijuana legalization. The CBS News conducted a series of opinion with questions focused on marijuana and its legalization. In another poll of the 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. Next poll was with a question 'Legalizing marijuana use is…?' 52% polled in favor saying 'good for the local economy'. The interesting thing was, they linked their poll with upcoming presidential election asking 'If presidential candidate supported legal marijuana…?' But the poll result dismayed many as 56% of people said it made no difference to their voting choice.
The modern technology and the efficiency of the online poll maker tools made it possible to practice great care while selecting the audience sample and sharing the poll with them. Due to digital technology new polling techniques differ greatly from the traditional less scientific and skeptical ways of feeling public emotions. Neither it is possible to conduct a poll by asking every adult individual in the population to participate in the poll, nor it is possible to ask the majority of the population in a large city to take the poll. Doing so is a costly and time-consuming affair. Instead, interviewing or asking a few people representing the population strata to participate in the poll and analyze the results as public opinion is an easy and trusted method. Nevertheless, the part of the population sample selected to participate in the poll must consist of similar kind of people making the majority of the population. The purpose is to create an accurate miniature of the population that will reflect the public opinion in the polling results.
Thus, the first requirement of a trusted and unbiased public opinion poll is a trustworthy sample of people representing the precise miniature of the population.
There are different ways to set up a sample. However, the two most commonly used methods used by many polling organizations to set up a sample are 1) Controlled sample method and 2) Area sampling method.
This method is widely used, wherein 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 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 for public questions? Do poor and rich people have different views on politics? Why people in the south are not much concerned about the pressing issues in the north or west-coast region? Come up with the 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 for many years were trying to address the sample setting issue and have come 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
Pollsters or researchers must understand that, before setting up the sample, certain facts about the population must be understood to ensure accuracy and effectiveness. If possible gather population figures from the latest census reports or use trusted external sources to understand 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 male and females, different age groups, economic classes, living styles, and communities.
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 easy because the information related to different types of geographies such as countries, states, cities, villages, or towns can easily be acquired through census reports and other sources.
A distinct insight gathered from polling organizations to distinguish cities into bigger, medium, or smaller and villages based on their per capita income, education, etc. and knowing towns within the borders help to cross-section the areas in an elaborate manner. A typical rea sample consists of a number of small areas such as townships, small sections of the big cities, blocks in the villages, etc. The sample is set and chosen in such a manner that the sum of the areas represents an accurate miniature model of the population participating or chosen for polls.
Indeed, setting up a sample is the most essential ingredient of the opinion poll. However, if the questions are not properly phrased, then no matter how scientifically you could have set the sample, all your attempts to conduct polls will be ruined.
Before you start phrasing the question you need to understand that a poll question has to be neutral. Avoid 'loaded' or 'leading' questions which might jeopardize the transparency and authenticity of the entire poll results.
For example, "Is the government forcing its health-related schemes on the people?" Well, don't you think different people will take the different meaning 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 meaningless answers. Avoid such questions.
Ensure the poll questions are phrased in a clear and concise manner so that its meaning is not misunderstood by the people participating in the opinion polls. 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 meant 'bring the boys back home'. Thus, using such a word in phrasing a question 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.
No matter how great you feel about the way you have phrased poll questions, it is a good practice to test the question by asking a small group of people to participate in the test poll. Participation from colleagues and friends in the test poll is good and getting their opinion about the questions is also a good practice. However, trying it out on a small number of a random sample is the best way to test your poll. Many public opinion polls fail because the questions are wrongly phrased.
It is hard to describe the precise questions to be asked in an opinion poll. More often, the type of question depends on the motive behind the poll or the kind of information a researcher intends to gather from that poll.
Closed questions: The most common type of question is 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.
For instance, consider this question, 'Do you think mutual funds are a good investment option?' Obviously, the answer options will be 'yes', 'no,' and 'can't say'. Adding 'can't say' option is a good practice since it gives equal importance to the people who are unable to decide or who do not have a fixed opinion about the question.
Open-ended questions: or 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 line of thinking people possess concerning a specific issue.
For example, an employer can conduct an online poll allowing his employees to express themselves about the working conditions ways to improve working conditions or discrepancies at the working place to understand the issues affecting the productivity of the employees
Multiple choice questions: It is another kind of question that can be used in opinion polls. Here a question is grouped together in a form of checklist and participants are allowed to choose multiple options amongst the number of answers. These questions play an important role when researchers wanted to know how strongly people feel about a pressing social issue or to understand how well informed people are about an issue affecting society.
For example, "Which of the following statements comes closer to your thinking about the H-1B visa workers in America?"
Opinions polls is a definitive way to determine what specific people of certain population strata belonging to a specific demographics think or feel about a given subject. By asking people certain questions related to issues to understand public perspective for taking targeted actions. Here are the advantages of public opinion polls.
Increased internet penetration rate and higher mobile connectivity ensure online polls reach wider audiences. The wider reach of online polls is particularly beneficial for political parties to design their political campaigns and for organizations to test the public reaction before launching new products in the new territories. In fact many political parties create a poll during election times to understand pressing issues in a specific constituency so they can design their campaign around the same issues.
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 polls signify the importance of the public and their opinion. In fact, allowing the public to express their feelings or caste their views pertaining to a certain issue is like people exercising their right to freedom of expression granted to them as a citizen of the country.
Public opinion polls when conducted using an online poll maker tool increases its effectiveness and precision. If you have a right sample chosen scientifically, conducting polls becomes easier. As the entire data is in the digital format, real-time tracking is made possible; moreover, the analysis tools and ability to present results in graphical and weighted format reduces the possibility of errors in result presentation.