An expert in opinion polls and social research is helping students at Boulton Elementary School design and conduct a survey of student and adult attitudes.
Raymond Briscoe, Bountiful, a research associate for the correlation department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a founder and former president of Wasatch Opinion Research Corp., recently spoke to students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades in a thinking and learning-skills class about the ins and outs of opinion polls.The youths will poll about 400 students in the school's fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes during January. They will also poll students' parents.
Teachers Arla Westenskow and Karen Nelson said they have not finalized the survey questions yet, but they said the poll will ask students and adults how they feel about a variety of things.
Westenskow said the students will be asked how they like their parents and what kinds of things they like or dislike about them. Parents will be asked the same things. In addition, pollsters will try to determine how students and adults feel about many of the things in today's culture, from television and movies to hobbies and education.
Briscoe told the students the three most important things in an opinion poll are to ask the right questions in the right way; to ask the right people - a random selection; and to analyze the results carefully without making too many assumptions.
He said the larger the sample size, or the more people polled, the less error will creep into the students' results. He told them to ask short, simple, clearly stated questions that mean the same thing to everybody and that can be answered easily. "Avoid bias and don't talk down to people.
"A random sample is one which represents a much larger group," he said. "If you have a group of 1,000 people and select a much smaller group to be questioned - in such a way that everyone in the group had an equal chance of being questioned - then you have a random sample."
He told the students they shouldn't try to extrapolate too broadly or to assume that the results of their survey would be the same if they had questioned students from another country, from another part of the United States or even from another part of Utah, especially a rural area where life might be different than in Bountiful.