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Common Biases in Opinion Poll Research/ Surveys

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In newspaper and magazine articles, polls are frequently quoted, especially around election time. Based on the information there is available regarding sample selection, discuss how some polls can be strongly shaped to achieve a specific outcome. Also, have you/someone you know ever been polled? If not, why do you think that is?

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Dear Student,

When addressing the first aspect of the question, it should first of all be understood that all research is subject to some amount of error, especially keeping in mind that in most cases, research has to strike a balance between what is ideal or the 'gold standard' in methodology and what is practical and feasible. All the same, there are specific considerations that can be applied to surveys in order to minimize the systematic error produced by bias, i.e. the 'reproducible inaccuracies that produce a consistently false pattern of differences between observed and true values'. Additionally, you should appreciate that samples are selected in research because it is often not practical or even necessary to assess each and every person within the population of interest because if you can get a sufficient number of responses, it is assumed that the findings will be relatively generalizable to the wider population (given a few conditions are met). However, sample selection bias can ...

Solution Summary

An outline of key issues to consider, especially as it relates to selection bias, in the interpretation of findings presented from surveys or opinion polls.