At a glance

Policy stage: 
Level of involvement: 
Cost: 
Varies
Length of process: 
Short
Number of participants: 
Varies
Participant selection: 
Representative sample
Online / Offline: 
Online and Offline

A form of quantitative survey that measures the opinion of a sample of people.

Description

Opinion polls are quantitative surveys carried out to gauge and compare people's views, experiences and behaviour. There are several different kinds of opinion polls, including questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, telephone surveys, online/email surveys, and deliberative polling.

Participants

• Any - although usually sought out ot be a representative sample of the population.

Costs

Various:

  • The cheapest option is usually to buy a few questions on an existing survey, such as YouGov.
  • Costs go up if the survey is created from scratch, carried out independently, completed face to face, etc.
  • Compiling and analysing the data can also be costly.

Approximate time expense

Various:

  • Depending on the scale of the survey, the numbers of respondents, the amount of data gathered, etc.

Strengths

  • If done properly, opinion polls will generate statistically significant data about wider public opinion.

Weaknesses

  • There is a potential for inaccuracy or bias, such as sampling error: the participants not being 'representative'.
  • The wording of the questions asked may affect the findings.
  • The findings may only provide part of the story and can be misleading.
  • Opinion polls do not provide information about how or why the respondents think as they do or how this may alter over time.
  • They do not allow for a two-way dialogue between the people carrying out the survey and the respondents.

Origin

The first known opinion polls took place in the 19th Century to predict the outcome of American presidential elections.

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