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Poll Vs Survey: Definition, Examples, Real life usage, Comparison


Table of Contents

What is a survey?

Surveys are a method of data collection that are widely used to gather information, ideas, suggestions, preferences and choices using a wide variety of questions that are tailor made to gauge and understand specific types of data. These surveys are quick and easy to use in both, online and offline formats, yielding them as the most viable and efficient data collection mechanism.

The large variety of questions including single choice, multiple-choice, open-ended, audio/video, matrix based among others are used to help the researcher in tailoring the survey to suit the research objectives and obtain comprehensible results to be used as input for informed decision making. With advancements in technology, surveys can be distributed through various online modes including email, websites, social media and SMS which provides room for enhanced response rates and reaching relevant target audience.

For example: A company uses surveys to ask their targeted customer segment to rate their products based on aspects like relevance, price, package, suitability, choices, availability etc. The survey gets distributed after an analysis of the various distribution channels to identify the presence of the targeted volume of customer. Survey gets distributed through the appropriate channels and real time monitoring and reporting gets done after which the results are compiled to make business decisions regarding whether to continue certain products as well as identify the need to launch new concepts.

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What is a poll?

Polls are considered a subset of surveys wherein they are used to gauge the opinions and understanding of a targeted set of individuals using multiple choice questions in order to reach input based conclusions. Polls have evolved from an in-person process to online modes wherein quick poll responses are collected at just a click. Polls are frequently used for prediction, estimation and making time based decision.

For example: Sports channel broadcast the launching of a poll called the win predictor during cricket, football and other league tournaments. This predictor asks the viewing audience to vote for the team which they think will win. The polls get launched at different points of time during the game to assess changes in public opinions as the game progresses and the match skews in favour of either team. Not only this, polls are also launched for asking the audience about their choice for best player, best score etc.

The Election Poll

One commonly known example of application of polls in real life is the exit polls conducted during the voting process of elections by enquiring the choice of candidate from voters leaving the polling booth after casting their votes for the candidate of their choice.

The accuracy of such polls gets judged by their ability to predict the actual results of an election.

News channels project the winner of elections from each constituency based on their exit poll interviews. The more nuanced the research is, the higher the ability of the news channel to predict the election results.

Over time, the ability of the news channel to accurately predict the election results with low margin of error translates into higher trust on the part of the viewing audience. The news channels try to ensure that they are able to get an answer from all voting individuals to reduce the sampling error in their predictions.

The discretion shown by the voters plays a key role as an independent variable in increasing the exit poll precision.

Customer satisfaction surveys

Customer satisfaction surveys are a way of finding out the company’s performance in terms of keeping their customers happy. Companies launch customer satisfaction surveys based on their entire journey with the brand or try to gauge transaction specific experience. The surveys provide the customer with an opportunity to rate their experience with the company on multiple aspects such as customer service, ease of navigation, relevance among other characteristics.

These surveys are designed as a checking mechanism that helps the company to understand the changes and trends in customer experience from time to time. By doing this, companies try to maximize customer retention while focusing on growth and expansion plans. It even allows the companies to highlight grey areas which need to be worked upon.

The break up of Customer satisfaction surveys factors in:

  • likelihood of promotion
  • perceived value
  • meeting of expectations
  • product ratings
  • customer effort
  • competitive analysis
  • customer service studies
  • recall and recognition research
  • brand image perception

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Poll vs surveys

  • Questions: Polls use a single question methodology to gain issue specific opinions. Surveys make use of a number of varied question types to conduct an extensive analysis on particular topics. This makes surveys an in-depth process as against polls which are issue specific base level questions.
  •  Time consumed: Being a detailed procedure, conducting surveys are far more time consuming than polls. The time taken to conduct surveys depends upon the topic at hand, previously available knowledge and the decisions to be taken by the end-user. Polls consist of a one time question, and so data gets collected in a quick and prompt manner.
  •  Purpose: The purpose of surveys is to understand, explain and provide market data for allowing end-users and other beneficiaries to make intelligent and informed decisions based on current knowledge. Polls, on the other hand, are issue specific questions that aim at estimating or predicting outcomes.
  •  Usage: Surveys are used to plan out and frame detailed strategies and actions that companies take after studying and understanding the overall picture based on the data provided. Polls are used to make time based quick decisions  by efficiently gaining target audience perspective in a concise manner.
  •  Analysis and feedback: Surveys collect large number of data points from a substantial sample. This  presents the need to organise and analyse the data to make it presentable for the end-users. Care also needs to be taken to use the correct tools so that the data is comprehensible, even for people without technical expertise and knowledge. Moreover, surveys ask for extensive feedback to provide respondents with the opportunity of highlighting the positives as well as negatives that they feel should be conveyed. This de-limits the respondent from sticking to a script as well as companies are able to get additional insights.
  • Compared to this, Polls do not require such an extensive analysis and presentation. The results get compiled through a simple percentage that shows the answers given by respondents and which option has received the highest votes in the poll. These are fairly simple and do not require any technical expertise or skill to understand. Polls ask for immediate feedback which simple states the voters reasoning behind their choice of option.

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Surveys conduct a detailed analysis of the topic under consideration through the usage of multiple questions which makes a fairly extensive and time consuming process. Contrary to this, polls are a relatively quick data collection which makes use of a simple one question mechanism to understand public opinion on a specific issue.

In person data collection methods such as focus groups allow the researchers to gather insightful information as well as supplements the information using characteristics such as expressions and body language. The presence of multiple respondents from different demographic backgrounds help in initiating a discussion and adds value as the respondents gets to observe the direction and flow of conversation on a first hand basis.

Polls are a feature of Instagram stories wherein an Individual holding an Instagram account can launch a poll on their stories for 24 hours and can ask any question, which they wish to know about. These polls are answered voluntarily, by any person that follows the account of this said individual and views the story within the given span of 24 hours.

Disadvantages of surveys are: Time consuming, complex, inflexible, prone to multiple bias (sampling, acquiescence etc), requires technical knowledge and expertise.

Commonly observed disadvantages of online surveys are: No opportunity to clarify doubts and reduce confusion, can suffer from ambiguity, requires careful analysis of the different channels of distribution, lacks complementary information.

The disadvantage of observation is: need for an unbiased observer, cumbersome data management, uncontrolled environment, maintaining the authenticity of data .

Pros: Extensive data collection, fuels informed decisions, low cost, precise and representative

Cons: Time consuming, need for expertise, complex analysis process, possibility of bias, inflexible

There are certain pros of using surveys over interviews: less subjective, possibility of including anonymous respondents, higher response, widespread data collection in a relatively quick manner.

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