Polls, Surveys & Statistics - Breaking Down The Jargon

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Math, numbers and statistics don’t always come naturally to everyone.

There are formulas, data and terminology that can be overwhelming for many. They may feel alien to you, but data is all around us, wherever we turn.

Data collection is the process of gathering and analyzing information in order to evaluate outcomes, answer research questions, test hypotheses and more. 

Think about it. Data collection is fully integrated into our lives whether we realize it or not.

Our phones, laptops, social media sites, even the places we go to to pick up our morning coffee are collecting data on us.

This can be done by geo tagging locations when you head out for the day, or when you check in to locations and use their WiFi, or by what products you look for online, you’ll get targeted ads based on this data. 

One of the many ways that businesses and companies acquire information like this is through statistical analysis, polls, and surveys.

These methods can provide us with detailed information on things like public opinion, views and experience. 

But what if you’re unsure of what polls are, what their purpose is, and all of this mathematical and statistical jargon has got your head spinning?

Here at The Pollsters, we can cover everything you need to know. 

What Are Polls & Pollsters?

When you think about polls, the first thing that comes to mind is Election polls, or fun, interactive polls on your favorite social media sites.

But you may not know exactly what polls are about, or who pollsters are. 

Polls are often used in elections for the process of voting, but can also be used to record the public opinion or vote of a particular subject. So what is a pollster?

In short, a pollster is the person who conducts and organizes polls to compile the data derived from this poll. If you’ve ever received a ‘quick survey’ from a company in your email inbox, then this has likely come from a pollster.

Their main purpose is to deliver surveys and polls in which people are invited to participate in to find out trends and patterns. 

The findings are then normally used by companies and businesses for the purpose of improving sales, customer experience, public opinion and their services as a whole.

Pollsters will not only have to gather the data, but analyze the information and numbers, to deduct conclusions from the answers given. 

This information then needs to be compiled into a report so that the findings are linked to meaningful conclusions that the company can make use of.

History Of Polling

The notion of polling has been around for hundreds of years, with the first known example of an opinion poll recorded as early as a presidential election in 1824.

During the 1930s, the typical method used for polling was a simple question printed in a newspaper.

Then, readers of the newspaper would have to fill out the questionnaire and send it back to the company. 

From what we know, these polls consisted mainly of straw polls, which many believed were mainly useless, as the majority of the population would not have entered or given the chance to voice their opinions. 

Modern polling was further developed by George Gallup who tried to broaden the horizons by using quota sampling.

This method aimed to measure a wider part of society rather than just the people who read a particular newspaper.

His idea was to poll 3000 people from various backgrounds, regions and ages for a more comprehensive result. 

With this, the modern style of polling was evolved as it was clear that data could be far more useful and accurate when collected from a range of various people instead of one focus group. 

So Why Do We Use Polls?

Polls are one of the primary ways companies, businesses and individuals gather information and the opinion of a population. Public opinion is so vital in understanding the general consensus of a topic, debate, or in election campaigns.

Public opinion polls can sway political decisions, lawmaking and election results. Public opinion occurs when a group within society expresses their opinions collectively.

For example, a political leader may talk about their intended policies and plans, and the public may respond to this.

They could tweet about it, fill out surveys, or post responses online. What their general opinion is on the matter can lead to change.

Polls can often be scientific, to gather data, but they can also be informal to uncover opinions, unofficial ideas, or a response to a particular event or question.

For example, a few years ago, Disney released a trailer for their upcoming movie ‘Ralph Breaks The Internet’ in which the iconic Disney princess, Tiana seemed to have a lighter skin tone and ‘whitewashed’ features.

This was met with a public backlash and outcry, before the company chose to reanimate her scenes to stay true to her original depiction. 

Informal polls tend to open up a dialogue within a target group or audience, whereas scientific polls aim to gather statistical information to avoid bias or opinion.

Breaking Down Poll Jargon

Nowadays, many different types of polls are used for various purposes.

You have your common straw polls, push polls, gallup polls, but we use this terminology often, and you may not know what we are talking about!

What Are Push Polls?

A push poll is often used as a negative campaigning method.

This type of poll is disguised as any normal poll or political poll, but it has an ulterior motive to sway voters in a particular way with loaded questions. 

These types of polls are used more often in political campaigns in which an organization will attempt to persuade voters in order to affect election results.

The main goal of a push poll is to influence the participants in a certain direction, rather than to seek out opinion.

This is done through a guided set of questions, with weighted or loaded words to get the participants to think a certain way, and sway the opinion.

This can make you wonder about the legalities of such polls. 

However, they are considered a part of political speech and protected under the First Amendment.

They are regulated, as they are intended to ‘push’ towards a certain direction, rather than simply spread false information. 

Straw Polls

We’ve briefly discussed the concept of straw polls, but not in much detail. So, what is a straw poll? In short, a straw poll is an informal voting technique.

It is an unofficial way to gather evidence based on public opinion. For example, a straw poll is an informal vote that is often made up of questions with a yes or no answer.

It is a way to determine which way public opinion is swaying towards. 

A straw poll is a type of informal poll, used to collect information and data on particular topics or issues.

To help you differentiate between straw polls and other types of informal polls, check out our guide

Straw polls can be used for the purpose of market research, to collect information, or to find out public opinion on certain matters.

They can also be used to predict the outcome of elections.

Gallup Polls

We touched upon Gallup polls above with the history of polling, but Gallup himself has a type of poll named after him.

Gallup polls are conducted to assess public opinion by questioning a sample of people.

These polls are also often used to predict the outcome of election votes, depending on certain areas, people, and what sort of backgrounds they come from. 

What About Election Day Polls?

Now that we’ve piqued your polling interest, you may be wondering what type of poll is conducted on Election day? This is one of the biggest questions we get asked all the time! 

During elections, exit polls are used to conduct research into what a voter’s intention will likely be.

Exit polls are typically done when an individual leaves the polling station, to find out who people are voting for, and which candidate is the likely winner in that area. 

It is for these reasons that we have Rasmussen Polling. Rasmussen is one of the largest names in the political polling game, which has the intention of gathering, publishing and distributing the results of a public poll.

Rasmussen is often one of the first polling companies to announce early results of a Presidential election of where it is going to head.

How To Make A Poll Yourself 

As you can see, using polls can be so beneficial for your business, for politics, or for your personal information.

They can provide us with specific viewpoints, opinions and information about a proportion of the population, which can be so beneficial for research purposes, political purposes, for gathering feedback, or for business purposes.

So, you may be wondering, how can you make a poll yourself?

Luckily, creating polls is popular on social media sites, so you can easily create polls to distribute between your friends, colleagues or associates.

For instance, if you’re trying to decide where you should all go to dinner, or get a general view or opinion on a matter, you can make a simple poll. 

Here at The Pollsters, we have so many different informational guides of how to create polls yourself, whether you want to make one on Youtube, Discord, Instagram, Facebook, Slack, or even on Snapchat

It’s never been easier to have a little fun with polling and try it out for yourself! 

Now you have a little more understanding of polling, let’s give you a rundown of what surveys are, and how you can use them.

How To Create A Google Doc Survey

What Are Surveys?

Surveys are also used for research purposes. A survey will be composed of a list of questions, intended to extract data from a specific group of people.

This could be about a specific product, process, business, or service. 

You may have also heard of the term ‘sample survey’ which is used in statistics to get data from a group of the population, who act as a representative of the population as a whole. 

Surveys can be completed through a variety of methods. There are many survey platforms that will allow you to complete surveys online, and offer them out to the public, such as SurveyMonkey, or Survey Junkie.

You can read all about these, and whether they are of use to you here at The Pollsters.com. 

You may come across surveys often in your life. Websites, businesses, and customer services are always asking you to complete short surveys to help them improve the experience of their websites and customers.

However, you may be wondering what the real purpose of gathering this data is, and whether surveys are qualitative or quantitative.

Well, both of these research methods are used in surveys, as it depends on what kind of information the data collector wants to receive.

For more information about Qualitative and Quantitative Data, check out our handy guides. 

What To Do With Survey Data

What to do with survey data, depends on the intention of the survey. Surveys will yield a range of results, so it is important that this information is analyzed before you report it.

Survey analysis is so vital, as you will gain far more data than if you just run with the initial results.

With this, you can share the results, compare the data, and gain valuable insight about your research question. 

Ready To Try Making Your Own Survey?

You can create Surveys on a range of platforms.

There are specific survey making tools such as SurveyMonkey, which is a popular one, but you can also make surveys on platforms like Facebook, and through office tools such as Google Docs

We’ve got some useful guides you can read to help you start your survey-making journey!

What Does n Mean In Statistics

Statistics - Terms You Need To Know

Finally, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. It’s so annoying when people are talking about data, statistics, or research, and you’re lost in all of the jargon used.

In this section, we’ll give you a little run down of some of the common terms. After all, statistics are what we know best, and we want to share our knowledge with you!

Statistical Tests

First up are statistical tests. What Are Statistical Tests? Well, these tests are conducted in order to make quantitative conclusions about a methodology.

For instance, if you want to test a hypothesis or theory, then you can use statistics to do so. This is often done through experiments or through field tests. 

Within statistics, you’ll hear terms such as variables, outliers, samples, or ratios, which can be a little confusing if you don’t know much about them. So, let’s go over the basics. 

Variable Meaning

Variables are any things that can change or be changed in an experiment or test.

They are factors that can be controlled or manipulated during experiments. You should also check out what a controlled variable is. 

Outlier Meaning

An outlier occurs when you have collected the data. An outlier in short is any value from the data that is different from the rest. 

Ratio Meaning

Ratio is a term you’ve come across before. But what does it mean? Ratio is simply a way that you can compare one thing to another, which is often used in math, to compare two or more numbers.

For instance, you can use these in votes to see how many people vote for one thing compared to how many don’t. 

Control Group Meaning

A control group is vital when conducting scientific research, as you will need one for your tests.

A control group is a group of people that are different from the others within the experiment. They cannot be influenced by variables, because you have them under control.

For instance, when testing to find out the influence drugs may have on a behavior, there is often a control group that gets a placebo, so their behavior will not be caused by the drug you are testing.

The ones having the placebo are the control group. 

Margin Of Error Meaning

Finally, we have ‘margin of error’. This is essential in finding any statistics, as they are never 100% accurate or reliable. Your data could be wrong due to a range of variables.

The margin of error is the level of uncertainty that you have in your data or measurements.

For instance, your research could give you 97% confidence in what your statistics say, but you still have that 3% as your margin of error to consider. 

If there are research questions, surveys and polls that you would like to look into, with our guides, you can finally know what every term and phrase means, to give you a better understanding of the conclusions made! 


Here at The Pollsters, we’re very passionate about numbers, statistics, data and research, and all we want to do is share that passion with the world.

We hope that this guide has given you a rundown of the basics, to help pique your interest in math and statistics.

If it has, then join our community, and learn all you need to know about polls, surveys and statistics from our site.