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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Much More Than "A Gallup Poll"

I'm thrilled when I see people out there discussing, debating, and quoting our Gallup findings. But I sometimes wince when I see someone refer to "a Gallup poll."

How can it be?

Despite Gallup's proud history, much of what Gallup reports today are the results of much more than "a Gallup poll." They are, instead, the result of daily, continuous tracking.

What's the difference? Stay with me, and trust me, this matters even if you aren't a pollster or a stats geek.

While "a Gallup poll" is a one-time survey, usually based on 1,000 interviews conducted over a three-day period, Gallup Daily tracking data are the result of 1,000 interviews conducted every single night. While there are limits to what we can extrapolate from a one-time, 1,000 person Gallup poll, our daily tracking samples -- which total 30,000 surveys per month and more than 350,000 surveys per year -- provide endless possibilities.

Take, for example, our recent "State of the States" series. Every measure you see there -- from President Obama's job approval rating to our Job Creation Index to our Well-Being Index -- is the result of continuous, daily monitoring. We can look at any of those measures over the course of a day, a week, a month, a year or since 2008. We can also look at them by region, state, city, and congressional district. This level of detail is simply not possible with a one-time Gallup poll.

Our recent report on the politics of Asian Americans is another example. A one-time Gallup poll does not usually allow us to report meaningful findings by racial groups, much less by racial groups that make up a relatively small slice of the U.S. population. The same goes for religious groups. Only through our large daily tracking samples can we examine the ideology of Mormons or Jewish support for Obama.

Check out our reports on party identification, happiness, and worry and stress by age. Because our aggregated daily tracking samples are so huge, we can look at these metrics at every single age to see how things vary across the age continuum.

Our daily tracking data are what allow us to track health insurance coverage in the U.S. over time by demographic group, by plan type, and more. Monday morning, we'll release a new story on health insurance coverage by age.

Our economic data on economic confidence, job creation, and consumer spending can also be analyzed from every angle. Whether it's job creation by region or consumer spending by weekday, weekend, and payday weeks, we're able to get at what's really happening like never before. Next week, we add daily employment tracking to the mix, making it possible to examine the U.S. workforce -- both in terms of employment status, state of mind, and behavioral impact -- to a level of unprecedented detail.

So, how can you tell the difference between a Gallup poll and Gallup findings made possible by Gallup Daily tracking? Here's a quick checklist.

1) If we're reporting on a measure you see on the ticker across the top of, it's Gallup Daily tracking.

2) If we're reporting on a week, a month, a year, a city, a state, or a relatively small group in the U.S. population, there's a 99% chance it's Gallup Daily tracking.

3) You can always check the Survey Methods at the bottom on any story. If it's Gallup Daily tracking, it'll say so.

So, while we're extremely proud of the Gallup Poll name and legacy, our Gallup Daily tracking in the U.S. and global tracking around the world have allowed us to shift much of our energy from one-time polls that are snapshots in time to long-term, continuous monitoring of what we think are the most important indicators in the world.

Because we have so much data that can be examined in so many different ways, we're always open to ideas on what to report on and analyze further. If you have idea for a study of Gallup Daily tracking data, please don't hesitate to e-mail us at or post a comment here.

(NEW: Check out all of the questions included in Gallup Daily tracking.)


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