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7.1 How Public Opinion is measured

It is well known among businessmen, that the reaction of the public toward a given product or service, can be fairly accurately estimated by making samples inquiries among the relevant customers. This device is being applied to the science of government. In the United States, promising strides have been made by public opinion polls like the American Institute of Public Opinion, Crossley and ’Fortune Magazine.’

He can lose the election by Is it all worth it? Only being seen in a non-union the returns on election day barber’s shop. can tell.

Exhibit 7.1
Polling Techniques

7.1a Polling Techniques

The polling technique was extended to elections by collecting what were known as straw votes from small portions of the electorate. For example in 1936, the Literary Digest attempted to collect straw votes by sending ballots through the mail to people whose names were taken randomly either from telephone directories or from lists of automobile owners. This resulted in gross miscalculation because the sample did not include people who did not own telephones or cars. Some of them did not even return the ballot.

There are several polls that try to make election predictions, of which the best known is the one conducted by George Gallup, for the American Institute of Public Opinion. The accuracy of the results of the poll depends on securing a sample representative of the total universe, that is the whole group whose opinion is being sought. If each unit in a universe is equally included, then even a small sample can give accurate results. Beyond a certain point, if there is an increase in the size of the sample, the chances of a reduced number of sampling errors are greater. (A sampling error is the range existing between divisions in the sample and those of the universe.)

Drawing the sample at random would be one way of developing a representative sample. However this kind of random sampling is impossible for most political surveys. Instead census tracts are used, giving the number of residences and their locations. Quota sampling is a less complicated sample, though it is less reliable. In this type of poll, an attempt is made to secure a sample reflecting the variables among the population that can affect opinion.


7.1b Avoiding biased samples

In many cases conclusions may happen to be based on biased samples. For example a reporter may write that students are becoming more conservative, after interviews with a dozen students on the Yale campus. In general the success of opinion polls depends on the accuracy of the sample rather than on the number of persons interviewed. It is important for the sample to represent a cross section. The error in the polls should not exceed three percent. The neutral wording of the questions is also important, as pointed questions can elicit pointed replies. Voters may also be interviewed after they have cast their votes. This is known as exit polls, which are also an aid to the candidate to estimate the respective areas of his weakness and strength and to adjust his campaign techniques accordingly.

It cannot be denied that in spite of the difficulties involved in polling, it is such a useful device that it is used by various organizations. Parties conduct polls during elections to find out their strong and weak points. In fact, polls are an essential art of the American politics. The news media carry out surveys and even the polling organizations are involved in this task. Polls are also run by interest groups to support their claims that the people are in favor of or in opposition to a certain policy.

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Index

7.0 - Introduction
7.1 - How Public Opinion Is Measured
7.2 - Political Socialization
7.3 - Social Background And Political Values
7.4 - Political Ideology
7.5 - How Public Opinion Is Formed

Chapter 8





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