Standards & Methodology
These principles guide UMass Lowell polling:
INTEGRITY: UMass Lowell polls are strictly independent. The Center for Public Opinion conducts no partisan or advocacy polling and works only with non-partisan survey research experts and data collection/tabulation services. Questionnaire design is guided by decades of empirical research. The wording of individual questions on UMass Lowell polls is thoroughly tested to ensure balance and clarity and to avoid unintentional bias, and questionnaire instruments are organized to minimize potential order or context effects (in which questions asked earlier could affect how respondents answer those that follow). And UMass Lowell reporting of its polls does not distort or exaggerate the findings, but keeps in mind statistical significance and other, practical, limitations of modern sample surveys.
METHODOLOGICAL RIGOR: UMass Lowell polls are conducted to the highest contemporary standards of the survey profession, using long-standing principles of social science research. We begin with probability-based samples, providing a theoretical basis for generalizing the results to broader populations such as all registered voters or the general public statewide. Sample design also takes into account practical considerations, such as the need to include cell phones as well as landline households in most contemporary telephone surveys, to assure that UMass Lowell survey estimates are representative of the population being studied. The Center for Public Opinion works with data providers and other experts who are broadly experienced leaders in the field and employ the latest best practices in survey research. Fieldwork is closely monitored for quality assurance, and tabulated data are scrutinized for accuracy.
INNOVATION: The Center for Public Opinion will apply cutting-edge methodologies where appropriate and strive to embed carefully designed experiments in its polls to contribute “research on research” for the betterment of the survey research enterprise – to share what we learn not only from polls, but about polling in the 21st Century.
SUBSTANCE: UMass Lowell seeks to avoid quick-hit polls that focus largely if not exclusively on political horse race or snap reaction to news events (though occasionally those may have their place, too). The Center for Public Opinion’s work will emphasize research that provides deep insights into attitudes and behaviors among the general public, an electorate or other populations of interest.
TRANSPARENCY: The Center for Public Opinion strives to be an open book. For every UMass Lowell poll, the complete questionnaire and answers among the full sample will be released. So will a report providing extensive details of the methodology of the survey, in keeping with the standards of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and National Council on Public Polls. Additional data detail also may be released as warranted.