Survey Research

Survey research is a basic tool for collecting data in political science. In the 1960s, it was known as face-to-face interviewing. In the 1980s, the interview was conducted per telephone, and now digital communications have much simplified the process of polling. A mass opinion survey is the most popular type of polling applied to all voting-age population. In general, such surveys help politicians understand beliefs, attitudes, and values of the mass public. Investigators collect data from a small part of the population and apply generalized statements to everyone else.

Design of questionnaires has changed together with the polling technology, and present-day polls incorporate a complex system of collecting data. Questions contain different structure, phrasing, and order of the statements. The distinction between questionnaires begins with open- and closed-ended questions. In open-ended questions, the respondent provides a detailed opinion on the topic besides replying “yes” or “no”. While an open-ended question costs more time to record and analyze, closed-ended ones are even more common in surveys. There are options for the respondent to select the correct answer, which optimizes the polling procedure.

Face-to-face interviews and random digit dial (RDD) telephone surveys were major polling methods of the past century. Today traditional landline RDD polls are a problem because more people own wireless phones only. Despite RDD polls may cause a potential coverage bias, cell phones are unlikely to be used for surveys in the near future. Instead, researchers look forward to developing effective web surveys that will collect cheap and high-quality data. At the moment, they have not created a new comprehensive web research methodology yet so digital surveys remain a critical part of the future research.

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