ENG 101, Section 013

Ms. Vilhotti

September 30, 2007


Bias and Subjectivity in the Survey Study Method






  1. Read & mark up these student write-ups.
  2. In your groups, answer the following questions (each person has a written copy, I will call on you randomly).
    1. What is the bias: liberal, neutral, conservative?  How can you tell?
    2. How do you think the author compiled his data to prove his point?  What might he have left out?
    3. From this data, can you predict the question?  What might it be?
    4. What could the political scientist done overall (tone included) to be more objective?
    5. If you had to draw an ethically responsible thesis statement for a theory based on this data, what would it be?  Either individually or with your group, come up with one and write it down for each entry. 
  3. As a class, discuss answers and other concepts sparked by these student write-ups.
  4. Written reflection:
    1. What does today’s activity tell us about the questionable relationship between theory and data?
    2. Pretend one of the student write-ups you just read today is actually the Discussion section of a theoretical essay.  Considering the theory you and your group members came up with for the student’s paper, critique the student excerpt.  Locate the holes in the student’s analysis and discuss them.

Political Scientist A

The survey conducted on September 26 yielded various results concerning the topic of a future female president.  The data qualifies the notion that as students progress through their college years their opinions shift to a more liberal platform.  After analyzing the data, it was concluded that 77% of seniors and 80% of juniors would vote for a female president. This statistically proves that college has a “liberal sway” effect on adolescents.  Even more startling was the overall statistic that 77% of all students polled at NCSU said they would vote for a female president.  From this field survey report it can be concluded that a liberal swing is in effect and based on data a female president has majority vote amongst college students.


Political Scientist B

A random survey was conducted in the brickyard at NC State University.   A total of 228 students were randomly surveyed and asked the following question, “Do you think the US will ever accept a female president?”  The only answers choices were Yes, No, Not Sure, and Depends.  The limited answers choices obviously suppress the student’s true feelings about the question.  This loaded question deserves more answer choices than yes or no.  Many factors and feelings of the subjects cannot be expressed.  The choices “not sure” and “depends” barley let the student say what they mean.  The word “ever” makes this question not only confusing, but impossible to answer.  Who knows what the future will contain? Only 6 people out of the 228 said they were not sure.  This shows that the subjects were clearly hesitant to choose such weak answers, and so committed to a yes, or no.  Even with these flaws 96 subjects still thought that the US will not ever be ready for a female president.  Fixing the time variable to the present will provide stronger results.  A survey allowing the subjects to say, on a scale, how well they felt the US would accept a female president should provide quite a different result.



Political Scientist C

From the results of this survey one can see that more then twice as many people believe that women are capable of making good presidents, then don’t, because about 65% said yes, and about 30% said no.  So in general more college students believe that women are capable of making good presidents.  When looking at the differences in responses from men and women a big difference is noticed.  It can be seen that only 14% of women believe that women aren’t capable of making good presidents, but 54% of men believe that women aren’t capable of making good presidents.  So one could assume that men still have a bit of an issue with women being in charge.  When looking at the different responses of students in different years there isn’t that big of a difference seen.  About 71% of students who will graduate in 2008 feel women are capable of making good presidents, and about 69% of students graduating in 2009 also feel that way.  Of the students graduating in 2010 about 58% feel that women could make good presidents, and 70% of the students graduating in 2011 feel that women are capable of making good presidents.  So it appears that students opinions don’t change as they get older, and gain more knowledge. 


Political Scientist D

During a recent survey two hundred and forty one people were asked the same question and that question was, if two candidates ran with the same platform but one was a male and one was a female who would you vote for? Based on the data it is obvious that most voters feel more comfortable voting for a male.  Historically men have been the ones in office and since many have been raised to believe this is the “right way” the data is not really surprising.  Many will argue that the data is obviously sexist however the sexes were almost equally represented in the survey.  Well over half of the population surveyed felt that voting for a male was not only comfortable but something they would do.