POLI/COMR 240 Public Opinion Polling Prof. Wilson
Spring 2006 West 323
Office Hours: Wed. and Fri. Blocks 4, 5 375-2415
and by appt. email: wilson
As you already know, this is not a traditional course. The objectives are clear and
simple. By the end of this course you will have a good understanding of all facets of
conducting a public opinion survey. You won=t be an expert, but you will be more than
just a well-educated consumer of polling information. You will be exposed to all
components of the art of designing and the science of implementing and analyzing a
public opinion poll.
The major activity in the course will be your participation in one or two surveys. I know
it’s late to be so vague, but that is still to be determined. One survey is definite. We will
be polling Roanoke College alumni regarding their views of the alumni magazine, news
letter and e-news. This will be a combination survey—some interviews will be
completed via the web and others will be conducted in the more traditional telephone
The other survey is a statewide telephone survey regarding the Virginia Senate election.
If we do that, the time frame would be immediately after we return from Fall break. The
time frame for the alumni survey is not as crucial.
Your primary responsibility in the course is completing the interviews. Attendance in
class is expected. We will not be meeting in class every day, especially during the
survey times. You are expected to stay in touch with me when we are not meeting
regularly. If I don=t see you in the lab, then stop by the office to check in with me. The
interviewing constitutes 60% of your grade in the course. If we do only one survey, then
we will have two tests (20% each) and the interviewing will count for 20% of your grade.
More important to you, completing your interviewing assignments means you get an “A”
for that part of the course.
The data analysis section in this course is relatively easyB-survey reports rarely contain
sophisticated statistical analyses. You will have to write a data analysis paper with no
more than five pages of text (plus tables, of course). There will also be a short, relatively
informal presentation of your results. This will be more like sitting in a circle and
discussing our findings, but everyone will participate in the discussion. The paper, your
work in constructing the questionnaire and the presentation/discussion constitutes the
other 40% of your grade.
Any poll is only as good as its data, so I am truly dependent on you for the accuracy of
the survey results. There are few opportunities to violate academic integrity in this
course, but any violation will be vigorously pursued and will have severe consequences.
You must follow correct interviewing procedures! The course will follow the standards of
the College handbook.
Weisberg, Krosnick, and Bowen, An Introduction to Survey Research, Polling, and Data
Analysis, 3rd ed.
The lack of dates is intentional. I will let you know in class where we are on the syllabus,
but the pace will be dictated, to some extent, by our interviewing schedule. I will add test
dates well in advance, if they are necessary. There may also be additional readings on
specific topics. At the least, we will follow closely the polls in the Senate race.
Weisberg, Ch. 1-2
Weisberg, Ch. 4, 7
Weisberg, Ch. 3
Weisberg, Ch. 5
Weisberg, Ch. 6
Data Analysis I
Weisberg Ch. 8-10
Data Analysis II
Weisberg, Ch. 11-13
Report Writing and Uses of Polls
Weisberg, Ch. 15, 17
Weisberg, Ch. 16