You are here

Polling and the Public

Polling and the Public
What Every Citizen Should Know

Ninth Edition

August 2016 | 360 pages | CQ Press
Polling and the Public helps readers become savvy consumers of public opinion polls, offering solid grounding on how the media cover them, their use in campaigns and elections, and their interpretation. This trusted, brief guide by Herb Asher also provides a non-technical explanation of the methodology of polling so that students become informed participants in political discourse. Fully updated with new data and scholarship, the Ninth Edition examines recent elections and the use and misuse of polls in campaigns, and delivers new coverage of web-based and smartphone polling.

Chapter 1: Polling and the Public
The Importance of Polls  
The Pervasiveness of Polls  
Commissioned Polls  
FRUGging, SUGging, and Pseudopolls  
The Citizen as a Consumer of Polls  
Citizens' Views of Polls  
Polling and Democracy  
Chapter 2: The Problem of Nonattitudes
An Example of Nonattitudes  
The Use of Screening Questions  
Nonattitudes and the Middle Position in Survey Questions  
Response Instability and Nonattitudes  
Implications for Democracy and Public Policy  
Chapter 3: Wording and Context of Questions
Question Wording  
Question Order and Context  
Order, Context, and Visual Effects in Self-Administered Surveys  
An Extended Example  
Chapter 4: Sampling Techniques
Nonprobability Sampling  
Sampling Designs  
Sample Size and Sampling Error  
Total Versus Actual Sample Size  
Response Rates  
Weighting the Sample  
Two Extended Examples  
Chapter 5: Interviewing and Data Collection Procedures
Methods of Collecting Polling Information  
Interviewer Effects in Public Opinion Polling  
Internet Polling  
Chapter 6: The Media and the Polls
Standards for Reporting Results  
Substantive Interpretation of Polls  
Media, Polls, and the News Reporting Emphasis  
Chapter 7: Polls and Elections
Sponsors of Election Polls  
Types of Election Polls  
Uses of Polls by Candidates  
Polls in the Presidential Selection Process  
When and Why Election Predictions Are Wrong  
How Preelection Polls Affect Voters  
Chapter 8: Analyzing and Interpreting Polls
Choosing Items to Analyze  
Examining Trends with Polling Data  
Examining Subsets of Respondents  
Interpreting Poll Results  
When Polls Conflict and When Polls Surprise: Some Final Thoughts  
Chapter 9: Polling and Democracy
How to Evaluate Polls: A Summary  
Polls and Their Effect on the Political System  

“Asher’s Polling and the Public has been a mainstay in public opinion courses for the last two decades. This is not an accident. It is unrivaled as an introductory guide to the foundations of measuring and understanding public opinion. This latest edition does not disappoint. Students will continue to get Asher’s straightforward and clear approach that includes all the new developments in polling and public opinion.”

Jason Gainous, Ph.D.
University of Louisville

“I’ve used Polling and the Public for several years in my courses. The book is pitched perfectly for the undergraduate reader: the concepts are clearly explained, the examples are memorable, and the comics engage students’ interest. As a political science professor, I also appreciate the way in which Asher addresses how polling fits into bigger questions about democracy.”

Travis N. Ridout
Washington State University

Polling the Public is enjoyable to read and quite accessible. Students don’t need to have a course in statistics to understand the material, which makes it particularly useful for those with varied academic backgrounds. Polling the Public is perfect for students who are interested in learning about all aspects of polling, from sampling to the interpretation of results. They will also benefit from the book's excellent discussions of the critical benefits and drawbacks of polling as a way of measuring public opinion. The book is well written and uses current and attention-grabbing examples.”  

Jennifer Bachner
John Hopkins University

"Polling and the Public is essential reading for any course on public opinion or survey research methods. My students have found Asher's lively writing style to be an engaging introduction to complex ideas, from survey sampling to the nature and measurement of attitudes. And just as important for the study of politics, Asher introduces students to broader theories about the place of polling within democratic governing institutions.  Asher covers the art and science of polling, while providing students with a foundation of knowledge to understand current controversies in public opinion research."

H. Whitt Kilburn
Grand Valley State University

Polling the Public brings a wonderful sense of humor that would incite my students to talk about it during their next class period. It is very straightforward in manner, not reliant on jargon, and accessible to undergraduates and grad students who haven’t had many classes in public opinion. This book’s straightforward approach is useful to instructors by providing a thorough introduction to the complexities and nuances of the field.” 

Justin Wedeking
University of Kentucky
Key features
  • New examples relate to the 2016 presidential and 2014 midterm elections, as well as issues such as the AAU survey on sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses.
  • Provides in-depth examples of flawed media coverage of polls and/or inaccurate interpretation of poll results to help readers become more careful critics of claims and assertions made based on poll results.
  • Technical materials have been updated, but are still presented in straightforward language.
  • Exercises have been updated and linked better to student learning outcomes.
  • Methodology and technological issues are covered in the context of an interesting example.
  • Extensive treatment of analyzing and interpreting polls is given from a substantive, example-based perspective.
  • Exercises at the end of each chapter provide a good foundation for student self-learning and a helpful guide for instructors.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Preview this book

For instructors

Review and Desk copies for this title are available digitally via VitalSource.

Request e-review copy

If you require a print review copy, please call: (800) 818-7243 ext. 6140 or email

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from
*180 day rental