Chapter 15-1:  The Public Opinion Survey

Writing > Miscellaneous > Opinion Survey


A survey is a series of questions designed to discover people's opinions, habits, beliefs, awareness, or knowledge. This page discusses how to prepare and distribute a survey.

Preparing for a survey

Goal: What's your goal for this survey? What do you want to discover?


Hypothesis: Make at least two guesses of the outcome of the survey. 


Planning your questions

Prepare ten to fifteen questions for your survey. Don't ask essay-style, open-ended questions when you want to be able to easily analyze your survey results. Instead, provide survey takers with a selection of answers.

Question Types

Structuring questions

The beginning questions in the survey should distinguish the groups you're studying. For example, if you're studying how race or ethnicity affects opinions or habits, then your first question should determine race or ethnicity.

Provide clear questions and consistent answers. It's important that questions don't have answers that are too similar to one another. Use the tips above for Yes/No/I Don't Know questions or questions that use a rating scale.

Distributing a survey

Give clear instructions. At the beginning of the survey, write a short introduction for your survey explaining its purpose. Tell respondents how to complete the survey. See the sample survey below for an example.

Who will you survey? You may decide to survey a wide group of people in order to get a variety of opinions. Or you may want to select a narrower group so you can study the opinions or beliefs of that specific group. 

How many people will you distribute the survey to? A larger sample will be more representative of the group at large, but sometimes you may have limited capabilities. If you're working with a group, each person in the group can survey a certain number of people. 

How will you distribute the survey? You will also need to decide how to distribute your survey. Some options are: 

Useful Words and Phrases

Question words such as: 

Sample Survey

The following is a model survey designed to gather information on public opinion regarding a particular topic. This survey demonstrates one specific format. Others exist. The natural sequence that follows the administration of an opinion survey is a data analysis and then a presentation, often in the form of a technical report.

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