Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to questions frequently asked about participation and representation in our polls, how polls are conducted and reported, and other general questions.
Participation in a public opinion survey is one way for a person to share their views on issues that are happening in our nation and around the world every day. This section responds to questions frequently asked about participation and representation in our polls.
How can I participate in your poll?
The Quinnipiac University Poll relies on random samples of the population to complete surveys. While this means that people cannot volunteer to do our survey, it also means that everyone has an equal chance to be selected. We use randomly generated lists of phone numbers in a process called Random Digit Dialing or RDD. This process only generates phone numbers, not names or personal identifying information. RDD ensures that all people in the population have an equal chance of being surveyed.
Why have I never been called?
Many years ago, the famed American pollster George Gallup told a woman that the probability of being interviewed by his poll was equal to the chance of being struck by lightning. The woman told him she had, in fact, been struck by lightning! Then, like now, the chances of being called are small, especially in national polls.
I get so many spam calls. How can I tell it’s the Quinnipiac University Poll calling?
When our interviewers call, Quinnipiac’s name and telephone number will show up on many caller ID displays, whether it’s a cell phone or landline. Our interviewers will leave a message to let you know who we are, why we are calling, and that we will be calling back. That way, you will be able to identify our telephone number and answer if you’d like to participate the next time an interviewer calls. We make several attempts to reach you.
Conducting and Reporting Polls
Accurately representing the views of the American public is a complex, scientific process. This section responds to frequently asked questions about how polls are conducted and reported.
What do public opinion polls measure?
Polls are snapshots during a specific window of time. They capture public opinion, but they don’t predict it. Election races can and often do change over time. The results we provide reflect sentiment at the time the poll is taken.
How can a poll of 1,000 respondents represent the whole country?
This is another analogy from George Gallup. Think of a pot of soup. You only need a spoonful to know how the soup tastes. That’s similar to public opinion surveys. You only need about one thousand respondents to know the views of the entire population of the country – as long as you have a random sample, in which everyone has an equal chance of being selected. After we collect our data, we make statistical adjustments to match Census data so that our findings can mirror the demographics of the population. That process is called weighting.
What is the Margin of Error?
Because pollsters can’t interview every person in the population, samples of the population are taken and they report a Margin of Error with survey results. For example, let’s say a survey finds that 40% of registered voters support Candidate A and the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. That means the actual percentage of voters supporting Candidate A in the population is likely between 37% (40% - 3) and 43% (40% + 3).
This section responds to other frequently asked questions.
Who is paying for these polls?
Quinnipiac University. The Quinnipiac University Poll is part of the Department of Public Affairs and surveys are conducted as a public service. The Quinnipiac University Poll is independent and does NOT poll on behalf of any political candidates or organizations.
Are your polls only conducted in English?
No. Our polls can be conducted in both English and Spanish.
What is your polling schedule?
We don’t make our schedules public. One reason for that is we don’t want campaigns or organizations to attempt to sway the results. We do poll on a regular basis. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see our results the minute they are available or check back on our home page often.
What happened in 2020?
For an in depth look at election polling and the 2020 election, read Doug Schwartz’s OpEd published in the Los Angeles Times.