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Survey

Michael W. Traugott


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Surveys are one of the standard forms of collecting data on individuals. The process is uniquely suited to the collection of knowledge, attitudes, and opinions, but there are many circumstances where it is the only way to obtain information about behaviors as well. Surveys are sometimes distinguished from polls (→  Public Opinion Polling ) because they are more likely to be conducted by academic than commercial researchers or because they tend to be longer. This distinction is not applied here. In political research , for example, there are many ways to obtain information about voter turnout – how many people went to the polls – including official government statistics. But governments do not collect information on candidate or party preferences, and surveys are required to obtain such information, as well as on other personal characteristics such as age, race, or sex, and attitudes about issues of the day or specific policies. The only way that the impact of such personal characteristics on voting behavior and preferences can be pursued is through surveys (→  Election Surveys ). In the area of economic research , as another example, sales data can indicate the preference of consumers for one product over another or the relative market share of each. But the only way to obtain systematic data on the nature of preferences underlying these purchases or the demographic characteristics ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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