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Columbia Education Center
Social Studies


AUTHOR:  Rob Bishop, Box Elder High School, Brigham City, Utah

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  9-12 / Government, Social Issues

OVERVIEW:  Many view polls as either magical predictions or
sinister voodoo.  Neither is accurate. Polls are merely a source
of information.

PURPOSE:  In a society which surveys everything from soap used to
political preference, it is essential that polls are neither
feared nor revered.  Students must know polls are statements of
short term probability  that may easily be skewed.  They are a
tool to help man make rational decisions.

OBJECTIVE:  Students will understand A) terms of polling B)
philosophy of how polls are constructed C) how polls may be
inaccurate D) how  polls may be used.

RESOURCE/MATERIALS:  I recommend "The Use of Polls in Political
Campaigns" by Richard Smolka.  It may be obtained through the Taft
Institute of Two-Party Government, 420 Lexington Avenue, New York,
New York 10017, tel. (212) 689-0230.

I. Define Terms
        Polls      Survey       Census       Cue Words
        Random Selection        Open-ended Question
        Closed-ended Question   Inferential Statistics
        Quota      Cluster
    II. Philosophy of Polling
        A. Random Selection
        B. Selection Process
      III. Reasons for Error
        A. People Lie
        B. Interview Technique
        C. Questionnaires
        D. Sample Selection
        E. Probability Factor
    IV. Type of Polls
     V. Use of Political Polls
        A. Determination of political climate
        B. Candidate Identification
        C. Voter Priorities and Expectations
        D. Issue Identification
    VI. Analysis 
       (NOTE: Details for the lecture outline can be found in the
reference materials, other texts, or by contacting me at Box Elder
High School, 380 South 600 West, Brigham City, Utah 84302.

TYING IT ALTOGETHER:  Conduct a poll of studentbody elections. It
can be reasonably accurate and simple with the following steps:
1.  Acquire master printout of all students.  
2.  Using the principle of random selection, choose students on a
ratio.  Start with a given student (the third, fourth, etc.) on the
list and choose every tenth  (or fifteenth or twentieth,etc.) name.
3.  Prepare a printed survey from, including instructions and purpose.
The more confidential, the better.  A form that can be filled out and
returned will have half the "undecided" responses of a telephone or
face-to-face survey.
4.  Distribute and collect all forms on the same day at the same time
5.  Collect and tabulate data.  If this can be repeated two to four
times during the course of the election, kids will also pick up trends,
peaks, bandwagon effects,etc.
    An outgrowth was candidates wanted this information and used it to
create increasingly sophisticated campaign strategies - but that is
another lesson plan.  Political Polls


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