Measuring Public Opinion

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
27 April 2022


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.

This module is part of the Q-Step pathway. Q-Step is an award which you can gain simply by enrolling on specific modules and will signal to employers your capability in quantitative research. Learn more about the Q-Step pathway and enhance your degree now.

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.


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 Coursework weighting
Coursework   2022-23 ONLY IF REQUIRED BY EXAM BOARD  28/03/2024   

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


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



External examiner

Dr Stefano Pagliari
City, University of London
Senior Lecturer in International Politics
Available via Moodle
Of 507 hours, 16 (3.2%) hours available to students:
491 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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