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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Questions to Ask When Writing About Polls

How do you 'interview' a poll? By asking the same kinds of questions you do for any story. The following questions can help you figure out the Five Ws (and One H) of survey research reports that land on your desk.

  1. Who paid for the poll and why was it done?

  2. Who did the poll?

  3. How was the poll conducted?

  4. How many people were interviewed and what’s the margin of sampling error?

  5. How were those people chosen? (Probability or non-probability sample? Random sampling? Non-random method?)

  6. What area or what group were people chosen from? (That is, what was the population being represented?)

  7. When were the interviews conducted?

  8. How were the interviews conducted?

  9. What questions were asked? Were they clearly worded, balanced and unbiased?

  10. What order were the questions asked in? Could an earlier question influence the answer of a later question that is central to your story or the conclusions drawn?

  11. Are the results based on the answers of all the people interviewed, or only a subset? If a subset, how many?

  12. Were the data weighted, and if so, to what?

This information was developed by AAPOR as part of a comprehensive online journalism polling course created in partnership with NewsU, a project of the Poynter Institute and funded by the Knight Foundation. The course launched  September 2007.