1st Edition

Understanding Public Opinion Polls

By Jelke Bethlehem Copyright 2018
    298 Pages 68 Color & 55 B/W Illustrations
    by Chapman & Hall

    298 Pages 68 Color & 55 B/W Illustrations
    by Chapman & Hall

    298 Pages 68 Color & 55 B/W Illustrations
    by Chapman & Hall

    Polls are conducted every day all around the world for almost everything (especially during elections). But not every poll is a good one. A lot depends on the type of questions asked, how they are asked and whether the sample used is truly representative. And these are not the only aspects of a poll that should be checked. So how does one separate the chaff from the wheat? 

    That’s where Understanding Public Opinion Polls comes in. Written by a well-known author with over thirty years of experience, the book is built around a checklist for polls that describes the various aspects of polls to pay attention to if one intends to use its results. By comprehensively answering the questions in the checklist, a good idea of the quality of the poll is obtained.


    • Provides readers with a deeper understanding of practical and theoretical aspects of opinion polls while assuming no background in mathematics or statistics
    • Shows how to determine if a poll is good or bad
    • Provides a historical perspective and includes examples from real polls
    • Gives special attention to online and election polls

    The book gives an overview of many aspects of polls – questionnaire design, sample selection, estimation, margins of error, nonresponse and weighting. It is essential reading for those who want to gain a better understanding of the ins and outs of polling including those who are confronted with polls in their daily life or work or those who need to learn how to conduct their own polls.


    Public Opinion. Some History. Setting up a Poll. Asking Questions. Selecting a Sample. Collecting Data. Checking and Correcting Data. Computing Estimates. The Nonresponse Problem. Online Polls. Analyzing the Data. Publishing the results. A Checklist for Polls. References. Index.


    Jelke Bethlehem is an expert in the methodology of surveys and polls. For 36 years, he conducted research at Statistics Netherlands. Research topics were nonresponse, disclosure control, and online data collection. He has written several books about surveys and polls, the most important ones being Applied Survey Methods, Handbook of Nonresponse in Household Surveys, and Handbook of Web Surveys. He has retired from Statistics Netherland now, but is still a professor in survey methodology at the Leiden University.

    "It is a welcome arrival at this fraught moment for the field. Bethlehem does not flinch from discussing the vulnerabilities of public opinion research, e.g., plummeting response rates, voters’ tendency to "satisfice" by opting for easy responses rather than honest responses, the menace of online snap polls, etc. His objective is to help a new generation of survey researchers avoid (or at least finesse) these problems. . . The book is nonetheless a solid introduction to the field for young researchers preparing to adapt to the challenges presented by more elusive and skeptical voters."
    ~R. P. Seyb, CHOICE

    "Summarizing, the book is well written, its content is clearly presented, and many practical illustrations should give the reader a good basis for answering the questions of the Checklist for Polls and for assessing whether a concrete poll can be trusted. It can be recommended to everybody who is involved in surveys and polls, be it as consumer of poll results or as participant in a related project."~Peter Hackl, Stat Papers