Introduction and Table of Media Literacy ActivitiesDefining Critical Media Literacy1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemDemocracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsThe Internet as a Public Utility21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsMedia Coverage of the RoyalsRepresentations of Native Americans on Film and in Local History Publications2. The Development of United States GovernmentPromoting a Declaration of Independence on Social MediaMarketing and Regulating Self-Driving CarsRepresentations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaPolitical Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTweeting the Bill of Rights3. Institutions of United States GovernmentHollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentWriting an Impeachment Press ReleaseHow Members of Congress Use Social MediaPolitical Impacts of Public Opinion PollsDesigning a Website for a New Political Party4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensImmigration in the NewsPortrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmEvaluating Information About COVID-19Women Political Leaders in the MediaMedia Use by Advocacy Organizations and Special Interest GroupsDigital Games for Civic EngagementSocial Media and the ElectionsMedia Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesCelebrities' Influence on PoliticsPolitical Activism Through Social MediaRecruiting Workers for Public Sector JobsImages of Teachers and TeachingTransgender Representation in the MediaMedia Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Music as Protest ArtPACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media5. The Constitution, Amendments and Supreme Court DecisionsMedia For and Against ProhibitionThe Equal Rights Amendment on Social MediaNews Stories and Advertisements from the Civil WarRepresentations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTweeting For and Against the Equality ActReading Supreme Court Dissents AloudDebating Cameras in the Courtroom6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentNative American Mascots and LogosWriting a Constitution for the InternetMilitary Recruitment and the MediaYour Privacy on Social MediaState Government Use of Media During the COVID-19 PandemicGendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsEnvironmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTrusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicCampaigning for Political Office on Social MediaAdvertising the Lottery Online and In PrintLocal Government and Social Media7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyPress Freedom in the United States and the WorldThe News from All SidesInvestigative Journalism and Social ChangeNews Photographs & Newspaper DesignUncovering Reporters' PerspectivesRecommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsDetecting Fake NewsConducting Critical Visual AnalysisMemes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls

Public Opinion Polls have become an prominent feature of American politics. A poll is a survey given to a small sample of chosen respondents as a way to reveal what larger numbers of people think about a political issue or election candidate.

Poll results are often widely reported in both print and online media. They are meant to provide information about people and politics that would not be readily available in other ways.

As a matter of media literacy, it is important to understand what polls can and cannot tell us about what people want from government or who people want to elect to public office. There are two important factors to keep in mind.

First, ideally polls support democracy. The information they provide contributes to everyone’s knowledge and understanding of politics and policy. As the Pew Research Center crucially noted, “in nations without robust polling, the head of government can simply decree citizens’ wants and needs instead” (Key Things to Know about Election Polling in the United States, August 5, 2020, para. 1).

Second, in reality polls have limitations and shortcomings. Any poll is just a snapshot in time and may not reflect people’s changing attitudes or behaviors. For example, a person may complete a poll saying they intend to vote in an election and then decide not to. Or, a person may not answer a poll honestly, saying they voted for one candidate when in fact they voted for another candidate instead. For these reasons, polls may miss the levels of support or opposition for issues or candidates actually present in society.

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In the following activities, you will gain firsthand experience in conducting and reporting public opinion polls and then you will explore what happens when public opinion polls do not represent the opinion of the public. 

Activity 1: Conduct an Opinion Poll on an Issue of Interest

Activity 2: Conduct an Opinion Poll on Election Voting or a Political Candidate

Activity 3: Evaluate how Election Polls can be Misleading

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Explain the process of elections in the legislative and executive branches and the process of nomination/confirmation of individuals in the judicial and executive branches (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Science) [8.T3.4]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Computational Thinker
      • 5b. Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9
  • English/Language Arts Common Core Standards