This is a series of mostly closed-ended questions, designed in consultation with the client, asked of a scientifically chosen random sample of respondents, generally over the telephone. The client receives marginal (the percentage of the entire sample who choose each response option for each question), a strategic analysis of the data in a written report, and a book of cross-tabulations (percentage tables that indicate how subgroups of the population feel).
The cost of polling varies according to the length of the questionnaire and the number of respondents interviewed (see section below entitled “Conducting the Benchmark Poll: Sample Size”).
Purpose of Polling
- To help you develop and deliver a message that will reach the public or organization members and move them in your direction.
- To build support among members and the general public by releasing polling results that show support for your organization and its positions.
- Strategic polls conducted for candidates and organizations are different from newspaper polls, in that the former focuses on how to change people’s opinions, whereas newspaper polls focus on predicting the outcome of the election or taking a snapshot of the public at a given time.
Kinds of Polls
- Benchmark poll: the most comprehensive poll, conducted early in the campaign or at the beginning of a project, to develop the message and strategy.
- Message-refinement polls: additional polls, usually shorter than the benchmark poll, conducted during the campaign or project to refine the message and targeting based on going developments.
- Tracking polls: shorter, five- to ten-minute polls conducted during the campaign or project, whose purpose is to monitor the effectiveness of your message and media, as well as that of your opponents. Tracking polls help you decide whether to adjust your message in any way.