In This Article Opinion Polls

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Works
  • Critiques of Polling and Public Opinion Research
  • How Politicians Use Polls
  • Anthologies and Edited Volumes
  • Special Journal Issues
  • Review Essays and Special Reports
  • The History and Development of Public Opinion Research
  • The Deliberating Public
  • Data Archives
  • Resources about Current Polls and Public Opinion
  • Professional Associations
  • Degree-Granting Programs in Survey Methods

Communication Opinion Polls
Michael Traugott
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0140


Polls and surveys are the main methodology by which public opinion is measured. Unbiased polls can be conducted by commercial firms, researchers at colleges and universities, think tanks, and, increasingly, by news organizations. But organized interest or partisan groups also collect and report biased data with an eye toward getting such data into the news stream in order to influence public opinion. To understand public opinion and assess its sources, it is essential to understand the psychological underpinnings of it as well as the details of the methods by which it was collected. The polling literature places a particular emphasis on election polls because of the special circumstance in which estimates of election outcomes derived from these surveys can be validated against the actual outcome of the elections. All of these topics are covered in the Oxford Bibliographies Online articles Communication Campaigns, Knowledge Gap, Media Effects, News Framing, Political Advertising, Priming, and Public Opinion, with a particular emphasis here on the methodology and interpretation of the results. Other bibliographies are cited as appropriate.


Because of the rapidly changing technology that survey researchers employ, their methods undergo constant change, revision, and improvement. The only way to keep up with these changes is through the journals that the primary professional associations publish. This section contains journals that are published by professional associations that cover primarily issues of public opinion or survey and polling methodology. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) sponsors three of these journals: Public Opinion Quarterly (cited under Public Opinion Research Primary Focus), Survey Practice (cited under Survey Methods Primary Focus), and their newest, the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology (cited under Survey Methods Primary Focus). The World Association for Public Opinion Research sponsors the International Journal of Public Opinion Research (cited under Public Opinion Research Primary Focus). These four journals contain articles about survey methodology as well as the uses and consequences of polls. The following listing is divided into two parts—journals that present research findings that relate primarily to public opinion and those that present research on survey methods.

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