An opinion poll is a study technique, by which it is expected to know the preferences of a group of people on a given topic or issue.

A survey, in social sciences, refers to a research technique by which it is sought to know the opinion and preferences of a certain community, about one or more specific topics.

It is carried out through the survey, and it is important that it is perfectly designed so that the results it yields are as reliable as possible. Therefore, it is essential to select a good sample, in addition to choosing the appropriate questions, which also allow us to segment by sex and age.

Objective of the surveys

Surveys are usually carried out by means of demoscopy companies. Companies that, in turn, are hired by the media or by political parties. All this, in order to know the electoral orientation of public opinion, or to know the preferences of the same on a specific issue, such as a specific policy; the assessment they make of politicians; or managing a crisis.

The objective of the survey is multiple, although it depends on who commissioned it.

If you are hired by a party, it expects to know how the voting trends are; what are the problems of the population; and who is the public or target to whom they should be directed. This, in order to maximize their electoral support in the next elections. If, on the contrary, you have been hired by a media outlet, it has two main objectives: to gain an audience and to influence the electorate. This influence will be based on different aspects, such as the ideological tendency of the managers or the source of financing of the medium.

Types of polls

There are several types of opinion polls. The main ones are the following:

  • Personal survey: It is one that is carried out face to face with the person surveyed. This technique allows us to know the respondent more in depth and do a better job. Its great disadvantage lies in its high cost, since the interviewer has to carry out an exhaustive analysis of each of the respondents.
  • Telephone poll: It is widely used in politics, particularly in pre-election polls. These serve, mainly, to refine the strategies that the parties must follow in the face of an election.
  • Email survey: These are those that are carried out, sending the questionnaire to the respondent's email. Its main advantage is low cost, since the role of the interviewer is not required.
  • Internet survey: These are those that are present on some web pages. Its advantage, like the previous type, is the low cost it requires. But it has some clear disadvantages: the reliability of the answers and the target that answers them. For this reason, the online survey is not conceived as a good tool as far as representativeness is concerned.
  • Panel survey: This type of survey is characterized by being longitudinal, that is, several surveys are carried out over time to the same people. It is useful to know the variations of the respondents.

Characteristics of a survey

The main characteristics of the surveys are the following:

  • It allows to know the public opinion on certain relevant topics.
  • The survey is the tool used.
  • They are widely used by political parties and the media.
  • It offers very useful information, which allows changing the electoral strategy or addressing certain social problems.
  • It can be done through numerous techniques, thus choosing the degree of representativeness and the cost of the survey: personal, by telephone, by email, by internet and panel type.

Pros and Cons of Surveys

The main advantages of surveys are:

  • A lot of information at a relatively low cost.
  • It is very useful for parties and administrations.
  • You can reach quite a large audience.

On the contrary, its disadvantages are these others:

  • Large margin of error if the methodology used is not correct.
  • Some types of probing can constrain the respondent.
  • There may be interviewer bias.

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