Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding Polling Data

Those of us here in the Government Information Library tend to be political junkies and I am no exception. In these election years I get to combine that with my love of data and then try infect the rest of you with the same enjoyment. How can I combine data and politics? Oh, there are so many ways, but the easiest is polling.

For example, all politicians love to talk about taxes, so what do we, the electorate, think about this issue?

Pew Report: Tax System Seen as Unfair, in Need of Overhaul
This graph and table give a quick summary of the issues without making us read a whole lot of words. In just a few seconds I go "Yeah, I totally agree" or "Who did they poll in this study?" These reactions are one of the reasons they continue to keep polling all of us and including these polls in newspapers and TV programs.

So, how does one go about finding these polls? Well, depending on if you are lucky enough to be here or at another library there are a number of different options.

Here at the University of Colorado Boulder we have two subscription databases that will meet the majority of your polling needs:
  • iPoll This database contains over 600,000 questions and answers asked in the US since 1935 by every major polling firm. In other words, lots of good stuff! It lets you download whole datasets, tables, or graphs for these questions. It is updated regularly and is a great place to search.
  • Polling the Nations This database contains over 4,000 surveys conducted by more than 1000 polling organizations in the United States and more than 100 other countries. In other words, a great place to go when looking for non-US opinion as well.
For those of you not at this fine institution, do not despair! There are a number of freely available resources:
  • Pew Research Center This is the organization who brought us the tables displaying above and they cover issues from the internet to taxes to the press and all of it is available for you to read and analyze to your hearts content for free.
  • Gallup While Gallup locks a lot of its research in a database, which we don't have access to here, there is still a lot of the current data available for free on their web site on both the US and the world as a whole.
  • American National Election Studies This group conducts national surveys of the American electorate in election years. Their datasets consist of the time series studies (conducted since 1948) collected around each national election and pilot studies conducted in "off-years" to test or refine the time series studies.
Not enough? Well, why not check out the library's guide to Polls. Happy number crunching!

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