Understanding and Interpreting Polls

Course Overview

Understanding and Interpreting Polls
Self-Directed Course
This $29.95 course is free of charge thanks to the support of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and Knight Foundation.
Time Estimate:
This course takes about three hours to complete.

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

Journalists are bombarded with data from polls, especially when election season approaches. Are you confident you can tell the legitimate numbers from the sloppy surveys? How effectively can you evaluate the polling methods? Do you know when nine out of 10 isn't really nine out of 10?

In this course, you'll learn to dig into the survey data and see how the numbers measure up. You will gain a better understanding of how polls are conducted, what to look for in the methodology and how to determine the legitimacy of a poll.

What Will I Learn:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Appreciate the value of solid polling data
  • Understand the science of polling
  • Identify the elements of a valid poll
  • Interpret the methods box of a poll
  • Analyze the quality of questions
  • Identify appropriate sample groups
  • Understand weighting and its value
  • Evaluate polling agencies and sponsors
Who should take this course:

New journalists, veteran journalists, J-school students, political science majors, bloggers, voters and anyone who wants to know why polls work and how they are conducted.

Training Partner:

American Association for Public Opinion Research

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) is the leading professional organization of public opinion and survey research professionals in the U.S., with members from academia, media, government, the non-profit sector and private industry.

Technical Requirements:

For this course you will need to have at least version 8.0 of the Flash plugin installed. For the best experience, we suggest that:

  • PC users use Internet Explorer or Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox
  • Mac users use Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox or Safari
  • You set your monitor resolution to 1024 x 768 or higher
  • You use a high-speed connection