Public opinion theory and research are becoming increasingly significant in modern societies as people's attitudes and behaviors become ever more volatile and opinion poll data becomes ever more readily available. This major new Handbook is the first to bring together into one volume the whole field of public opinion theory, research methodology, and the political and social embeddedness of polls in modern societies. It comprehensively maps out the state-of-the-art in contemporary scholarship on these topics.

With over fifty chapters written by distinguished international researchers, both academic and from the commercial sector, this Handbook is designed to:

Give the reader an overview of the most important concepts included in and surrounding the term ‘public opinion’ and its application in modern social research; Present the basic empirical concepts for assessing public opinion and opinion changes in society; Provide an overview of the social, political and legal status of public opinion research, how it is perceived by the public and by journalists, and how it is used by governments; Offer a review of the role and use of surveys for selected special fields of application, ranging from their use in legal cases to the use of polls in marketing and campaigns.

The SAGE Handbook of Public Opinion Research provides an indispensable resource for both practitioners and students alike.

Self-Administered Paper Questionnaires

Don A.Dillman andNicholas L.Parsons

Introduction

The mail survey may be the oldest of systematic survey methods. The earliest known such survey was conducted in 1577 by King Phillip II of Spain, who posed 38 written questions sent by official courier to leaders of his New World colonies (Erdos, 1970). Despite modern innovations in survey research methodology, including telephone and web data collection, the practice of asking people to write their answers to questions and either hand them to the surveyor or return them by mail remains a viable and much used data collection procedure to measure opinions.

An example of the current effectiveness of mail data collection methods is a general public survey of community satisfaction and involvement administered in 2005 to residents of a ...

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