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Method and Meaning in Polls and Surveys

Method and Meaning in Polls and Surveys

Howard Schuman

ISBN 9780674060432

Publication date: 03/11/2011

Howard Schuman is one of the premier scholars of social surveys. His expertise concerns the way questions about attitudes and beliefs are worded and the effects questions have on the answers people give. However, Method and Meaning in Polls and Surveys is less about the substance of wording effects and more about approaches to interpreting the respondent’s world, and how surveys can make that world understandable—though often in ways not anticipated by the researcher.

Schuman examines the question-answer process that is basic to polls and surveys, as it is in so much of life. His concern is with the nature of questioning itself, with issues of validity and bias, and with the scope and limitations of meaning sought through polls and surveys.

Writing with both wisdom and humor, Schuman considers the issues both at a theoretical level, bringing in ideas from other social sciences, and empirically with substantive research of his own and others. The book will be of interest to social scientists, to survey researchers in academia and business, and to all those concerned with the pervasive influence of polls in society.


  • The premier expert on academic survey research, Howard Schuman is a man of superb judgment, balance, and wisdom. On any debate that flies through cyberspace on survey methods, Schuman's is the voice I most await, and listen to. Here, he urges readers to take a judicious position about surveys, neither ritualistically taking their results as reflecting revealed truth, nor rejecting them as misleading, full of error and bias, and signifying nothing. Method and Meaning in Polls and Surveys is an original and erudite contribution from the field's eminent scholar.

    —David O. Sears, University of California, Los Angeles


  • Howard Schuman is Professor of Sociology and Research Scientist, Emeritus, at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center.

Book Details

  • 232 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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