Methods 101: How is polling done around the world?

– How is polling done around the world? (quirky strings music)
(marker scratching) International polling provides information about how people in different countries are thinking about
issues like immigration, technology, religion, you name it. But polling in different
parts of the world can be very challenging, because what works in one country may not work in a different country. For this episode of Methods 101, I’m enlisting the help
of some of my colleagues who grapple with those
challenges every day. – The first step in conducting an international poll is determining where it’s possible to conduct
rigorous survey research. In some countries, governments insist on approving the questionnaire, thus potentially limiting
what can be asked. In other cases, laws may discourage public opinion research altogether. Also, armed conflicts or political unrest can make it too dangerous to survey in certain parts of the world, but keep in mind, it’s
not just the political or security environment that matters. Polling is a relatively new enterprise in some parts of the world, so there may not be many local partners who have the experience and knowhow to conduct high-quality surveys. The bottom line is that researchers have to carefully consider whether the necessary research
infrastructure and skills are available on the ground, whether conditions are
safe for field work, and whether government
regulations make it possible to ask the kinds of questions
researchers need to ask. – So after pollsters decide
which countries to survey they need to determine how
to administer the interview. In some countries, nearly
everyone has internet access, making online polling feasible. In other parts of the world,
telephone usage is higher so telephone surveys are more effective for reaching a representative
cross section of the public. But, in countries where many people are not easily reached
by the internet or phone, in person or face-to-face
interviewing is often used. However, this type of polling comes with its own set of challenges. For example, pollsters
conducting face-to-face surveys have to think carefully about
where to send each interviewer in order to reach a diverse
set of the population while balancing the time
and money it requires to travel across a country. Also, in some countries,
nearly all households have addresses making
it more straight-forward to draw a national sample,
but in other countries, many households don’t have an address which poses a challenge for
interviewers in the fields. Fortunately, thanks to technology, fields interviewers are
increasingly provided with GPS-enabled tablets, smartphones,
and even satellite imagery to help them conduct random
sampling in locations where addresses or up-to-date
maps are not available. – It’s also important to determine which languages are spoken in a country so that researchers can translate the questionnaire when needed. Here at the Pew Research
Center, for example, we translated our 2018
Global Attitudes Survey into more than 40 languages, including 11 languages in India alone. Translation raises a whole
other set of challenges around consistency though,
as researchers want questions to be comparable in terms of meaning, no matter what language
they’re administered in. For instance, to translate
the phrase “a free society,” you want to ensure that
“free” is translated to mean “open” or “unrestrained”
as opposed to without cost. It’s also important to
avoid idioms or phrases that may be common in one
country but not in another. And whenever possible,
it’s a good strategy to have local experts review questions for any cultural or political
sensitivities to be aware of. If resources allow, testing
the survey in all the languages will help identify whether
a translation is confusing or likely to be misinterpreted. – So, as you can see, there is
no one-size-fits-all approach to conducting an international poll. Success depends on
addressing the technological, societal, and cultural dynamics
unique to each country, and working with
professionals who are trained and local to the country is a critical part in making that happen.

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