What should you look for in a pollster?
Any public opinion poll should be carried out by a professional researcher using proven, scientific polling methods. Virtually every survey taken seriously by social scientists, policy makers and the informed media use some form of random or probability sampling, the methods of which are well-grounded in statistical theory.
In a dependable survey,
- The polling sample is scientifically chosen so that each person in the population has an equal chance of being selected. Only this way can the survey’s results be reliably projected from the sample to the larger population.
- Survey questions are drafted by professional researchers. Questions should be worded in such a manner as to minimize bias, and proper question order should be carefully determined.
- The interviewers should be carefully hired, trained, supervised and evaluated by the research professionals overseeing the poll. Interviewers must be trained to conduct interviews in a professional manner, to properly handle reluctance on the part of respondents, and to take appropriate measures to avoid interviewer bias. Practice interviews should always be conducted prior to allowing a new interviewer to participate in a data collection project. Pollsters who outsource their interviewing have little control over the quality of the surveys conducted on their behalf.
Poll results should be collected, analyzed, interpreted and presented in a scientific manner that is easy for readers to understand. The methodology of every survey should be fully disclosed in sufficient detail to allow replication by other researchers, and data should be made available for others who wish to examine it.
The best pollsters have a variety of research instruments at their disposal. A pollster who is limited in the types of research functions it can carry out cannot tailor a project to fit a specific organization’s needs. Such a “one size fits all” approach diminishes a researcher’s ability to be effective.
A quality survey is as unique as the organization it serves. Choose a pollster who has a broad array of research abilities including telephone surveys, focus groups, on-site kiosks, mail surveys and Internet surveys.
Finally, polls should only be conducted by experienced researchers that abide by the Code of Professional Ethics and Practices as set forth by the American Association for Public Opinion research.
If you are looking for a public opinion pollster, here are four simple questions you should ask any potential pollster:
- Do you have specific knowledge and experience in public opinion polling? (and, arguably, market research experience is not completely acceptable)
- How will the sample be developed and (if the pollster will be buying the sample data from a vendor) how assured will you be in the reliability of the data?
- Since most public opinion polls are conducted by phone, who will be conducting the data collection for the survey?
- If the data collection is being performed by a subcontractor, how will you — as the pollster — be able to control errors and bias during the fielding process if you are not there?
Why Oklahomans Trust SoonerPoll
In 2006, SoonerPoll conducted more public opinion polls for the Oklahoma news media than all other pollsters combined.
Our mission is simple: to provide the very best public opinion polling for the state of Oklahoma. We developed our own cutting-edge statistical method for conducting research – its effectiveness is proven again with every project we complete. We handle every facet of every project we conduct, unlike our competitors, who may outsource some of the most sensitive aspects of a poll to out-of-state call centers.
But perhaps the most important reason SoonerPoll is Oklahoma’s most trusted researcher is simply this: we are the only researcher whose focus is exclusively Oklahomans. We know your audience, we know how to reach them, and we know how to deliver the results that will help establish you as a leader in your market.