frontiers of polling

A commenter on TPM writes about being polled by Rasmussen and how it was “bad practice” because of question ordering and suggestive language.

I’m not sure if I believe this post was actually Rasmussen, though it might have been. But in any case–the question of how to ask questions, how to poll on emotions, and in what order, strikes me as an art more than a science. If you want to know about how emotions figure into voting decisions, maybe this is precisely the right way to ask?

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

5 thoughts on “frontiers of polling”

  1. This remark seems really nihilistic and I think I disagree with it, unless I misunderstand your point. If you “want to know about how emotions figure into voting decisions” you need to use the principles of science and controlled comparisons between different versions of question presentation. There is a lot of research that is precisely oriented to figuring out what people are doing and thinking when they answer questions, and how small changes in question wording affect answers.


  2. I don’t mean it as nihilistic, just that if (as I suspect) opinions are evoked in contexts, then understanding the contexts produced by particular questions would be of interest. If, as Adorno et al. claim, the question is what kinds of views–“non-public opinion”–are deployed by citizens when placed in the right conditions, these may be important conditions to test.


    1. Right, I’m just saying that there are a survey researchers who study exactly this. That’s what they care about. Not saying you are in the group, but there are qualitative researchers who slam survey research without actually knowing anything about methodological studies in survey research. I have a knee-jerk reaction against sweeping and generally ill-informed critiques of other people’s research traditions. Well, except sweeping and ill-informed critiques of economics, which I tend to endorse.


      1. I generally agree, but don’t think the problem is “methodological studies.” The question is the concept of public opinion, and the critique offered in the original piece assumes a kind of presocial, authentic opinion that I think is sociologically problematic.


  3. Well I agree with you that an idea of “presocial, authentic opinion” is “socially problematic,” so perhaps the problem is that I read what you wrote as standing on its own, rather than in dialog with the other post. I’m only disputing the idea that survey researchers pay no attention to this issue.


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