Measuring Public Opinion

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 17 January 2022
Friday 25 March 2022
02 December 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

DIPLL20009 Politics

Module description

Public opinion is important. It is important to governments, to political parties, to pressure groups, to pollsters, and to academics in political science as well as many other areas. Public opinion is also interesting. People are more diverse, unpredictable and hard to understand than political parties, trade laws, electoral systems, and so on, and the fickle and elusive nature of public attitudes makes them a challenging butrewarding thing to study.

This module is about how we find out what the public think – about policies, priorities, party leaders, even about each other. Since the sample survey is overwhelmingly the dominant method of measuring public opinion, understanding how to conduct surveys and polls is the basis of the module. It will make it easier to understand the material in other modulesthat draw on survey data, expand the scope of 3rd-year project work, help you in future postgraduate study, and greatly improve your job prospects.

Measuring public opinion is a three-step process.

First, we need to define what exactly we want to measure. What is public opinion and do people care and know enough about politics actually to have opinions and to be able to answer survey questions?

The second step is to collect the data. We follow the stages of designing
and conducting a survey: writing a questionnaire, deciding who should receive it and how, and fielding the survey. Third, we have to process, clean and analyse those data.

GV205 is also a practical course. You will design your own survey, field it (probably on-line), and be able to analyse the data yourselves. You will develop specific skills in programming surveys, using the market-leading software Qualtrics.

Your own survey is also the basis for the second assignment.

The skills thus practised are highly valued by employers, and students taking GV205 will be very well qualified for a range of jobs –notably at opinion polling companies (many of which have strong links with the Department of Government).

Module aims

The aims of this module are to give students:
- a sophisticated conceptual understanding of public opinion;
- an understanding of how we know what we know about survey methodology;
- a detailed knowledge of the core tenets of survey research: questionnaire design, sampling, fieldwork;
- practical experience of those core tenets;
- an ability to collect and analyse survey data;
- the capacity to follow survey-based research published in leading journals.

Module learning outcomes

The outcomes of this module will be:
- an ability to critically assess claims about public opinion by pollsters, journalists, politicians, family, and so on
- a completed and analysed survey which can be cited as an example of project work
- a CV enhanced with practical skills of questionnaire design and data analysis;
- experience of independent learning based on the project-based assignments

Module information

There will be a Moodle site assigned to this module, and all materials –lecture notes, class exercises, datasets, assessment details and requirements, and also some of the readings –will be placed there.Together, the students will decide in Week 16 whether the remainder of the module will be available on Listen Again.

Learning and teaching methods

This module runs for the ten weeks of the Spring term, although the final assignment is not due until the beginning of the Summer term. Itwill be delivered with a two-hour weekly seminar that will be live streamed to students off-campus. For the first eight weeks, this will take place in class room. In the final two weeks, we will move to an IT Lab. Throughout, the module will be organised so that students accessing the module online will be able to take part in all activities.


  • Flynn, D.J.; Nyhan, Brendan; Reifler, Jason. (2017-02) 'The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs About Politics', in Political Psychology. vol. 38, pp.127-150

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay  03/03/2022  40% 
Coursework   Questionnaire Design  28/04/2022  60% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Iakovos Makropoulos
Module Supervisor: Dr Iakovos Makropoulos - TBC@essex.ac.uk / Module Adminstrator: Lewis Olley - govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Mohammed Rodwan Abouharb
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 477 hours, 16 (3.4%) hours available to students:
461 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.