Carolyn Browne Tamler

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    8-17-17 How is a statistically valid survey done?

    We are hearing a lot of reports on surveys of public opinion right now, especially with all that is surrounding President Trump and the recent White Supremacist (that word is now being used instead of simply "racism") actions in Charlottesville. How do you know if the survey results are valid?

    How a sample is chosen and how a question is asked determine if a survey result will truly be providing projectable statistically valid data.

    A random sample means that everyone in a given population has an equal chance of being selected. Anything that alters this concept biases the results.

    If you sample everyone who is registered to vote—this will include a lot of people who will not vote.

    If you sample likely voters in a way that excludes certain elements of the population (such as neighborhoods with a lot of low-income or minority populations, or that will exclude many people who may be likely to vote, but were not included in the sample.

    If you sample using a self-select method (such as a Survey Monkey) it will exclude people who simply have no interest in responding.

    As part of the survey methodology, the survey company will want to have a screening question, (assuming they are using a list of registered voters) such as: “Are you planning to vote in the next election in your community?”

    And, surveys are a snapshot of the moment. If a major event happens that is widely reported in the news a few days before the polling is done, that will definitely affect the results.


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