Pollster

(Phase 1)

It is now time to learn how these public opinion polls work. There are two major areas to concentrate on: Which 100 persons to ask the questions and what questions to ask.

First we will deal with whom to ask. One thing many people don't realize is that it doesn't take the opinions of very many people to estimate the attitude of a large population of people.

• Click here to visit another Nieslen site that explains this phenomenon. Pay special attention to the section entitled "How does Nielsen Media Research know who's watching?"

Now that we understand how the thoughts of few can represent the ideas of many by keeping our sample completely random, here is site to visit that gives the definition of Random Sample.

If you choose to do your poll via telephone, read this piece from the Phi Delta Kappa educational organization. It discusses the how to deal with keeping random over the telephone.

The final piece of determining your sample is… determining your sample. Whether you are conducting a phone poll or asking students at school, you will need a way to generate a random sample.

If you are conducting a phone poll, figure out the exchange for your local area. For example, in the number 555-1234, "555" is the exchange. If there is one exchange for your neighborhood, assume that part of the number and use the random number generator to get the other four digits randomly. (Hint: Since you are finding the last four digits, have the upper limit be 9999. Also, if 42 comes up as a number, please realize that it represents 0042)

If you have more than one exchange in your local area, divide the 100 people into groups so that you have one group for each exchange. For example, if you have two exchanges, generate 50 "last four digits" for the first exchange and 50 "last four digits" for the second exchange. (Note that this hurts the randomness of our sample a bit, but this method will serve our purposes)

One final thought. If you absolutely can't get through to someone on your phone list, return to the random number generator to create another phone number to call.

If you are going to conduct your poll at school, find out the total number of lockers at your school. Have that be the upper limit when you use the random number generator. When you have these 100 numbers, find out the owner of each locker and you are ready to go…

Now that you know whom you are going to poll, you better figure out what to ask them. For our purposes, ask no more than three questions. Be sure not to exert influence by the way you ask your questions.

Bad Way to Phrase a Question: "In the upcoming school election, are you going to vote for the stupid quarterback of the football team who couldn't find the end zone with a map and an Eagle Scout, the National Honor Society member who has never read a book, or my buddy (remember that I just gave you five bucks)?"

Good Way to Phrase a Question: "For whom will you vote in the upcoming election: Jim Smith, Sally Ford, Kelly Reed, or are you undecided?"

If you are going to ask your questions orally, be sure to read the questions the same way to all people. It will be best to give multiple choice answers such as "agree," "disagree," "neutral." This will make it much easier to compile the results. Also, if the person chooses, give them the opportunity to give reasoning or their opinion. This will give you some quotes for your article. If doing the poll at school, you may conduct the poll in a questionnaire format by having a pre-printed handout for people to fill out.