Modern Methods and Trends
Sampling techniques have become increasingly sophisticated and include various types, which may be random, stratified, or purposive, or a combination of any of these. The information may be elicited by personal interview, telephone interview, or mail questionnaire, and the polling is completed only after the data have been tabulated and evaluated. Polling has been much used by politicians to determine the opinions of voters on significant issues. It has also been used to forecast patterns of voting.
Besides playing an increasingly important role in national and local political campaigns, the technique of modern polling has developed into one of the more important tools in the methodology of contemporary social science, particularly in sociology. Commercial polltakers claim that they not only provide valuable information in such fields as market research and advertising but that they also aid the process of democratic government by making known the views of the people. Critics of polling question the validity of the claim that it provides a true picture of public opinion, and it has been suggested that the polls themselves may influence public opinion by creating a "bandwagon effect."
Some of the pioneer commercial polling organizations were the Fortune survey (1936) conducted by Elmo Roper; the Crossley Poll (1936); and the Gallup Poll (1935). The Harris Survey, begun in 1956, together with the Gallup Poll, are the best-known polling organizations. Nonprofit polling organizations include the Princeton Office of Public Opinion Research (1940), the National Opinion Research Center (1941), and the National Council of Public Polls (1968). Many other countries have polling organizations, and a number of international societies (e.g., The European Society for Public Opinion and Market Research) facilitate exchanges of information.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.