polling 2 01

Scientific Polling


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Data collection must result in reliable and valid responses for it to be fruitful and effectively contribute for timely decision making. Polls are an efficient data collection method that allow the researchers to obtain prompt results for taking time based actions which are fuelled by valid inputs.

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What is scientific polling?

Scientific polling is the activity of using statistical information to select respondents and obtain timely results through an unbiased questioning mechanism. The researchers have to focus on using a correct and concise line of questioning by taking care that the respondents are not pushed to answering in a certain manner because of leading terms. The poll results that are projected from an unscientific poll have a large margin of error and may mislead follow up decisions.

For example:  A webinar based company seeks to understand the preferred choice of online platform for an educational webinar. The company shortlists the name of college students who wish to study abroad after their graduation, as its target population for the poll. After preparing the shortlist, the company uses demographic, course related, location and other information to select a pool of 500 students. The responses collected from these 500 students reveal that Zoom is a preferred choice for 92% of the sample population.

Based on such poll results, the company decides to hold a foreign education based webinar for the entire population of students in their database Invitations are sent out through email and the webinar has a turnout of 90%.

The above example indicates the use of a representative sample to indulge in decision making for the entire population. The result from a statistically selected sample in this case, results in a high turnout.

Why is scientific polling used?

The use of scientific polling stems from the need of obtaining unbiased accurate results in a timely manner. The researcher must not be driven towards obtaining a certain kind of result and to achieve that, scientific polling includes certain practices to obtain authentic results. There is no point in conducting polls that aren’t able to inform intelligent decision making. The idea is to understand what the target population mindset regarding the specific issue under consideration is. Framing questions that invite genuine responses, choosing a statistically selected sample that represents the target population’s opinions and finally, the correct tools are used to present the poll results in a comprehensive manner that is understood by each end-user.

What are the elements of scientific polling?

Peculiar Sampling method: Statistically selected sample provides equal representation to every group. This allows the sample respondents to highly reflect target population. The statistically selected sample is selected in a fair manner based on quantitative input  and the results present of each and every group due to accurate representation.

Large size: As mentioned, keep your sample of respondents large enough to allow all opinions to get equal representation. You wouldn’t be interested in presenting one side of the coin, and so it becomes necessary that you come close to what the actual public opinion is by widening your respondent base.

Neutral framing: The questions framed for the poll must be specific , unbiased and should project a neutral perspective. The question must not lead the respondent in any way, into selecting a particular. This can skew the results in a manner which can make the results extremely unreliable and deflect from the actual public opinion.

Accurate reporting: Scientific polls are distinguished from all other types of research method in its peculiar nature of reporting the entire research process. Scientific polling describes the entire research from setting the basic objectives to the methodology used to how the poll results will be utilised to make effective decisions. This ensures maximum transparency and projects the complete picture.

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Advantages of Scientific poll

Accounts for statistical data: Using statistical data adds value to the quality of responses. The equal representation ensures that the data does not skew and show a one sided picture. Every demographic data along with additional relevant information gets accounted for making the survey collection process more cohesive.

Highly useful: Scientific polls are a great data input tool for directing decision making. It has high utility in examining attitudes and contrasting it with the opinions shown by other groups. It even monitors how such opinions change over time and the factors leading to the same.

Relative utility: Using scientific polling has a relative advantage against practices like random sampling where obtaining the right information depends on a fluke. Even though random sampling eliminates any bias in selecting the respondents, the arbitrary mechanism of selection can skew the results if such selection does not provide an equal representation to every target group in the population.

Disadvantages of Scientific poll

Highly complex: Every aspect of the research gets more complicated. A researcher has to firstly ensure that samples gets selected appropriately and is fed by the right information. The aspects of collection and administration becomes more cumbersome due to organization of data according to the type of responses and category of respondents.

Complexity requires attention to detail: Scientific polls needs close attention to be paid to the correct wording, substantial participants and methodology of polling before relying upon scientific polling for decision making. This is the reason why researchers try to supplement poll data with other inputs. Researcher also needs to pay heed to the margin of error of the poll. If the margin of error is high, then the research procedure has not been entirely scientific and needs amends.

Expert involvement: Smooth scientific polling comes with a requisite knowledge of statistical data and expertise in using that data to carry out a seamless and informed research process that meets end requirements. It is not easy for a layman to carry out scientific procedures and meet the same standards as a professional. Moreover, administering scientific polls is a costly procedure. So, adopting a hit and trial approach wouldn’t be in the best interest as it may result in skewed or distorted results in the absence of a trained professionals. 

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