Using Polls in Education Reporting: Reporter GuideReport as inadecuate

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Education Writers Association

Every four years, public opinion polls become a national obsession in the months leading up to the presidential election, with new results breathlessly reported nearly every day. But polling is not exclusively the province of political reporters. A handful of national surveys released each year focus on education, including the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll about public attitudes toward education and MetLife's annual survey of teachers. There is also often polling done for statewide education-related elections, such as ballot measures or state superintendent races, and, periodically, by news outlets and advocacy organizations on various education-related issues. Newly released polling data can make for illuminating stories about where the public stands on key education issues and can be a valuable resource for future story ideas and contextual information. Not all polling data are equal, though. While you do not need a statistics degree to figure out which polls are worth your time, you do need to approach a new poll with the same skepticism you bring to the rest of your reporting. Think of it like an interview--if there are questions the poll tries to gloss over or does not answer, it could be hiding something. [This guide was made possible in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]

Descriptors: Public Opinion, Journalism, National Surveys, State Surveys, Education

Education Writers Association. 2122 P Street NW Suite 201, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-452-9830; Fax: 202-452-9837; e-mail: ewa[at]; Web site:

Author: Wieder, Ben


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