If you want to get to know how polling institutes compose their surveys, I recommend that you read Jeffrey Stonecash‘s book. He made it easy to read without too much of unnecessary and and repeating information other than discussing the time remaining until the election that a candidate can beat their opponent if they lag a certain percentage behind. As a result of this, you have a book that is merely 177 pages long (a sample survey and the author’s short biography included), a compartively high percentage of which are filled with boxes of sample questions in a survey.
You will change the way you see political and other kinds of surveys after reading this book. One would wonder how about 1,200 people who participated in a nationwide U.S. survey would be representative of the entire country as to how the American people feel about particular presidential candidates, and Mr. Stonecash explained it very well. He discussed the importance of:
- arranging the questions in a particular order (including the demographic ones)
- the language of the questions (what part of the questions comes first and what comes second, how much information do the questions give the surveyed)
- interpreting the results of the survey (according to him, political candidates are usually not satisfied with the results of the particular survey and blame… the way the survey is done)
- the impact of biases in surveys, especially the ones that are ordered by a political campaign staff
- who conducts the surveys
- a candidate’s stances on the issues during the campaign (whether he or she changes them according to what the constituents think or is brave enough to stick with unpopular stances and try to convince the constituents to trust him or her)
While reading the book last summer, I was trying to revize the Democratic primaries for President between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and was very pleasantly surprised. These primaries were very good examples of Jeffrey Stonecash’s explanations, especially where Hillary Clinton made a lot of mistakes throughout her presidential campaign back then which cost her the party nomination. I was glad to have discovered that I had not been wasting my time reading the book.