Types of Polls
There are nine main types of polls :
A polling place in New Jersey during the United States presidential election, 2008
- An opinion poll is a survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by asking a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities from responses in ratio or within confidence intervals.
- A benchmark poll is generally the first poll taken in a campaign. It is often taken before a candidate announces his or her bid for office, but sometimes it occurs immediately following the announcement, allowing some opportunity to raise funds. This poll is generally a short and simple survey of likely voters.
- Brushfire polls are polls taken during the period between the benchmark and tracking polls. The number of brushfire polls taken by a campaign is determined by how competitive the race is and how much money the campaign has to spend. These polls usually focus on likely voters and the length of the survey varies on the number of messages being tested.
- A tracking poll is a poll repeated at intervals generally averaged over a trailing window. A weekly tracking poll uses the data from the past week and discards older data.
- An entrance poll is a poll that is taken before voters cast their votes. It is akin to an opinion poll in the sense that it asks who the voter plans to vote for and other similar questions. The possibility that the prospective voter might change his or her mind after the poll is very small compared to that of an opinion poll; therefore, the margin of error of an entrance poll is expected to be lower than that of an opinion poll.
- An exit poll is taken immediately after the voters have exited the polling stations. Pollsters —usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters—conduct exit polls to gain an early indication as to how an election has turned out, since in many elections the actual result may take hours or even days to count. Exit polls have historically and throughout the world been used as a check against and rough indicator of the degree of election fraud. Like all opinion polls, exit polls by nature do include a margin of error. A famous example of exit poll error occurred in the 1992 UK General Election, when two exit polls predicted a hung parliament. Widespread criticism of exit polling has occurred in cases, especially in the United States, where exit-poll results have appeared and/or have provided a basis for projecting winners before all real polls have closed, thereby possibly influencing election results
- The deliberative opinion poll is a form of opinion poll that incorporates the principles of deliberative democracy. In the deliberative opinion poll, a statistically representative sample of a community is gathered to discuss an issue in conditions that further deliberation. The group is then polled, and the results of the poll and the actual deliberation can be used both as a recommending force and, in certain circumstances, to replace a vote. Rather than simply determining existing public opinion, a deliberative poll aims to understand what public opinion would be if the public were well-informed and had carefully discussed a particular issue. Citizens are invited by modern random sampling techniques to participate; a large enough sampling group will provide a relatively accurate representation of public opinion.
- A push poll is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing-based propaganda masquerading as a poll and is generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning. This tactic is commonly considered to undermine the democratic process since false or misleading information is often provided about candidates. Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants and the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The term is also used in a broader sense to refer to legitimate polls that aim to test political messages, some of which may be negative. In all such polls, the pollster asks leading or suggestive questions that "push" the interviewee towards adopting an unfavorable response towards the political candidate.
- A straw poll or straw vote is a poll with nonbinding results. Straw polls provide dialogue among movements within large groups. In meetings subject to rules of order, impromptu straw polls often are taken to see if there is enough support for an idea to devote more meeting time to it, and (when not a secret ballot) for the attendees to see who is on which side of a question.