Social and Political Survey Research

Social and Political Survey Research

Social and Political Survey Research

Prof. Allan L. McCutcheon


Course Syllabus and Information

1. Overview of the Course 

The field of survey methodology draws on theories and practices developed in several academic disciplines (e.g., statistics, psychology, sociology, computer science, economics). To become an accomplished professional in the survey research field requires a mastery of research literatures as well as experience designing, conducting, and analyzing surveys.

This course introduces students to a set of principles of survey design and analysis that are the basis of standard practices in the field. The course exposes the student to research literatures that use both observational and experimental methods to test key hypotheses about the nature of human behavior that affect the quality of survey data. It will also present important statistical concepts and techniques in sample design, execution, and estimation, as well as models of behavior describing errors in responding to survey questions. Thus, both social science and statistical concepts will be presented. 

The course is intended as an introduction to the field, taught at a graduate level.  Thus, lectures and course readings assume that students understand basic statistical and research concepts (at the level of an undergraduate course) and have exposure to elements of social science perspectives on human behavior.  It is also assumed that students will have a basic understanding of a statistical software program (e.g., SPSS or SAS). 

2. Format of the Course 

The course has two important components:

a) Lectures  

These will be formal presentations and discussions of the topic material. 

b) Readings 

These are companions to the lectures that give the student a fuller discussion of key concepts and research findings. Except for the first class, readings should be completed prior to the lecture for which they are assigned. 

3. Readings 

There will be additional handouts as well as three books for the course:

Converse, Jean and Stanley Presser. Survey Questions: Handcrafting the Standardized Questionnaire. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1986. 

Groves, Robert M., Floyd J. Fowler, Jr., Mick P. Couper, James M. Lepkowski, Eleanor

Singer, and Roger Tourangeau.  Survey Methodology, 2nd Edition. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-

Interscience.  2009.

Kalton, Graham, An Introduction to Survey Sampling. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1983. 

Class Schedule

July 1 – Introduction to Survey Research Methodology 


Moving concepts to measures in survey design
Steps of the process of a survey
Examples of some key, ongoing surveys


Groves et al., Chapter 1

July 2 – Questions and Answers in Surveys


Overview of response behavior
memory search
delivery of response

Focus groups
Cognitive interviews
Expert review
Pilot tests


Groves et al., Chapters 7 & 8

Converse and Presser, Chapters 1-3

Presser, S., and Blair, J. “Survey Pretesting: Do Different Methods Produce Different Results?” In P. V. Marsden (ed.) Sociological Methodology, 1994.

July 3 – Inference and Errors in Surveys


Constructs and measurement

Response, non-response and edited response

Populations and samples

Respondents (Rs)


Groves et al., Chapter 2

July 4 – Methods of Data Collection.  Issues of Scientific Integrity

Pre-test debriefing and question selection 


Administered and self-administered
Social psychology of survey response
Alternative Methods
Mode differences
Multi-mode studies

Human subjects and IRBs

Informed consent

Disclosure of limitations


Groves, R.M. (1990), “Theories and Methods of Telephone Surveys.” Annual Review of Sociology, 16: 221-240.

Dillman, D.A. (1991), “The Design and Administration of Mail Surveys.” Annual Review of Sociology, 17: 225-249.

Groves et al., Chapter 5

July 5 – Populations and Samples


Populations and frames
Administrative records
Impact of computer assistance


Groves et al., Chapters 3 – 4

July 8 – Sampling Frames and Sample Design  


Probability sampling
Simple Random Sampling
Systematic sampling

Cluster and multistage sampling
Other probability designs
Sampling frames


Kalton, Chapters 1-8

July 9 – Sample Design 


Selection weights
Sampling errors
Examples of sample designs


Kalton, Chapters 10-14

July 10 – Data collection and Nonresponse


Contacting sample units
Gaining the cooperation of sample units
Monitoring the progress of data collection


Groves et al., Chapter 6


Groves, R., and Couper, M., Nonresponse in Household Interview Surveys, New York: John Wiley and Sons, Chapters 1-2.

Kalton, G. and Flores-Cervantes, I. (2003) “Weighting Methods.”  Journal of Official Statistics, 19: 2, 81-97.

De Leeuw, E.D., Hox, J., and Huisman, M. (2003) “Prevention and Treatment of Item Nonresponse.” Journal of Official Statistics, 19: 2, 153-176.

July 11 – Survey Interviewing. Theories, Hypotheses, and Measurement 


Theories, propositions and concepts
Measurement and indicators
Variables and hypotheses


Groves et al., Chapter 9.

July 12 – Post-collection Processing.  Hypothesis Testing and Statistical Inference 


Levels of measurement
Inference: significance and association
Chi-square test of significance for bivariate associations
Measures of association


Groves et al., Chapter 10

July 13 – Multivariate Hypotheses


Intervening variables
Direct and indirect associations
Spurious associations
Conditional tests of significance