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What’s the best way to run a survey?

The home page of YouGov, a popular internet polling firm. (
The home page of YouGov, a popular internet polling firm. (

Earlier this week Andrew Gelman and David Rothschild offered a response here at The Monkey Cage to the American Association of Public Opinion Research’s “dismissive official reaction to the use of YouGov polling by the New York Times.”  If you are interested in surveys – including how to administer them but also how to interpret them – then I highly recommend reading the piece. But if reading the Gelman and Rothschild piece left you hungry for more thoughtful discussion of how to conduct and interpret surveys in an era where telephone survey response rates have fallen below 10 percent, surveys are being conducted in more countries than ever before, and online surveys are rapidly proliferating, then I have good news for you!

Political Analysis, a political science journal that publishes research on methodology and measurement in the study of politics, has a five-article symposium on “Advances in Survey Research” in the current issue.  Even more good news: working in conjunction with The Monkey Cage, Oxford University Press has agreed to make all five articles freely available for download for the next seven days.  Here’s the beginning of the introduction to the symposium from political scientists Lonna Rae Atkeson and R. Michael Alvarez:

Over the last decade the survey environment has been rapidly changing, creating new opportunities and new challenges for survey methodologists. These include: relatively low response among all contact modes and designs; the rapid replacement of landline telephones for mobile and smart phones; the integration of new and different types of data for sampling and new sampling methods; the use of different survey interview modes; how to study behaviors and opinions about sensitive topics; and the development of survey designs for experts and opinion leaders. All have implications for data quality and for our ability to consistently and reliably answer substantive and theoretical questions about politics and society.

Obviously, a comprehensive survey of how survey methodologists are advancing new approaches to deal with this vast array of challenges and opportunites is not possible in a mini-symposium in Political Analysis. Nevertheless, in this Mini-Symposium on Advances in Survey Methodology, we include five papers that focus on new directions that survey methodologists, especially those working in political science, are developing in response to the changing environment.

The full introduction, available here, has a nice summary of the articles in the symposium. The individual articles are:

Stephen Ansolabehere and Brian F. Schaffner: Does Survey Mode Still Matter? Findings from a 2010 Multi-Mode Comparison

Lonna Rae Atkeson, Alex N. Adams, and R. Michael Alvarez: Nonresponse and Mode Effects in Self- and Interviewer-Administered Surveys

Michael J. Barber, Christopher B. Mann, J. Quin Monson, and Kelly D. Patterson: Online Polls and Registration-Based Sampling: A New Method for Pre-Election Polling

Laura Lazarus Frankel and D. Sunshine Hillygus: Looking Beyond Demographics: Panel Attrition in the ANES and GSS

Cherie D. Maestas, Matthew K. Buttice, and Walter J. Stone: Extracting Wisdom from Experts and Small Crowds: Strategies for Improving Informant-based Measures of Political Concepts

Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University. He specializes in voting, partisanship, public opinion, and protest, as well as the relationship of social media usage to all of these forms of behavior, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.



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