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15.8: Surveys and Information Contributors
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- Public-sector institutions such as local government offices may conduct surveys of the citizenry to understand public attitudes towards the police department or to gather information about public use of the park system. State government agencies may conduct surveys to gauge support for a proposed piece of legislation or new regulation. Federal government agencies conduct hundreds of surveys, with the U.S. Census of Population being the most familiar. Because these institutions are in the public sector, much of the information they generate is considered a public record, and hence the results of such surveys may be accessible to those who ask.
- Private-sector institutions such as businesses, political parties, trade associations, non-profit organizations and related entities conduct surveys of their members, customers, adherents, etc. Much of the survey work these private-sector institutions do is considered proprietary, meaning that it is a part of the institution’s internal activities and hence will not be shared with outsiders. However, some private-sector institutions make their survey work accessible when they are trying to influence stakeholders, such as legislators or funders, and communicators should always ask if the private-sector institution they are reporting on or for whom they are creating messages has survey data to share.
- Scholars, especially in the social sciences, rely heavily on survey data for their work in knowledge creation. The findings from survey data generated by scholars are published in articles, books, conference papers and on scholarly websites.
- Journalistic organizations conduct their own surveys on all sorts of topics and subscribe to the survey findings generated by institutions such as Gallup, Harris or Roper. Some news organizations have their own survey research units that are called into duty around election time.
- Informal sources are generally not going to be generating survey data themselves, but you might occasionally find an individual who can talk about responding to a survey or who knows that a survey was conducted, which would lead you to the appropriate contributor that did the survey.