Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Polling and the Public by Herbert B. Asher

Polling and the Public: What Every Citizen Should KnowPolling and the Public: What Every Citizen Should Know by Herbert B. Asher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is actually one of my graduate school books, so I figured I would review it before getting rid of it. Since it's 11 years old now, it's probably better to read more recent editions of the book. The main points of the book are probably the same, but newer editions might have more recent examples and perhaps review more advanced poll-taking technology and analysis.

The main points are not that enlightening. Polls can be useful or they can be misleading either by accident or on purpose. It might give the public a way to participate beyond elections, or it can manipulate the public.

Furthermore, some people don't care about the issues they are being polled about, and these "nonattitudes" might be misconstrued by the pollsters. Some people might care very deeply about the issue, but be undecided. Pollsters can mislead through not only question wording, but also question wording, and this is more difficult to detect.

The book also explains sampling error and types of sampling in some detail. This is useful mainly if you're planning on conducting your own poll. A 4% sampling error is usually adequate, but obviously not very determinative when 52% of respondents feel one way (really means 48-56% of respondents feel that way). The error of subsets of the sample might actually be much higher. The method of interviewing affects the results, the timing might affect the results, the release of the poll results might influence the public's actions.

Mostly, I enjoyed the political cartoons in the book. ISBN: 1-56802-582-3.

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