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How can you tell if a poll is reliable?

by | Oct 31, 2018 | Blog, Q & A

Political Science Professor Janine Parry answers:

My best advice, and the rule I follow myself, is that I should be able to see all the information about how the data were collected. You should be able to answer questions such as, did the poll use live interviews? Was it an online poll? Was it a random sample of the country or just of a state or a region? Was it done just among a specific group, such as Amazon shoppers?

The second screen I would use—and this should be available in the same place—is I should be able to see the questions and the response categories. Some people would consider that to be a little bit pickier, but I know enough from experience and scholarship to know that the way the question was asked and the response categories that were offered has everything to do with findings that were revealed, so I think that’s something that’s important to the methodology. The protocol — the  interview questions — should be available to people who want to consume that information.

Janine Parry

Janine Parry

Professor of Political Science

Janine Parry is the director of the Arkansas Poll, which has been collecting data annually since 1999. Her teaching and research interests include state politics and policy; women, politics, and policy; polling and public opinion; and elections and voter turnout. She has published two books and numerous articles and book chapters.

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