Representative Surveys


Winter 2023


  • Class will now start at 9 AM instead of 8:30 AM

  • I received accommodation letters. Schedule a meeting if you need anything beyond extra time for completing assignments

  • Response paper template coming soon!

  • Sign-up for final project groups will start at 5 PM on Friday, January 20. Check course website for link. First come first served!

Last week

  • Overview of course topic, goals, evaluation, expectations

  • We installed R and RStudio and explored them a bit

  • Cloud option always available if all else fails

  • More details in the course website


  • Overview of the MIDA research design workflow

  • Start the topic of public opinion

  • Representative surveys as the standard design

  • Takeaway: Complete random sampling is the gold standard but too hard to apply in realistic settings

  • Discussion: Getting surveys right

  • Lab: Intro to R + Sampling from populations

Research Design

What is a research design?

  • RD: A procedure for generating answers to questions

  • More generally: Thinking about how research is (was, will be) conducted

  • Emphasis: We can program and interrogate elements of a research design

Elements of research design

  1. Model (M)

  2. Inquiry (I)

  3. Data strategy (D)

  4. Answer strategy (A)


  • : A set of speculations about what causes what and how

  • Set: We consider many models because we are uncertain of how the world works

  • Speculation: All models are wrong, some models are useful

  • What causes what: Informs the event generating process (e.g. distributions, correlations)

  • How: An explanation of why things are connected or correlated

Examples of models?


  • : A research question stated in terms of the model

  • In this course, we will talk about quantities of interest or estimands1

  • Some questions will lend themselves to multiple inquiries. We will tend to focus on those with one or a handful

Examples of inquiries

  1. What is the proportion of unemployed people in the country?

  2. What is the effect of immigration on economic development?

  3. Do people support funding private clinics to mitigate surgery backlogs?

  4. Will the stock market crash this year?

  5. Individual causal effect \(\tau_i = Y_{i}(1)-Y_{i}(0)\)

Data strategy

  • : Set of procedures used to gather information from the world

  • Three features:

    1. How units are selected

    2. How conditions are assigned1

    3. How outcomes are measured

Answer strategy

  • : How we summarize the data produced by the data strategy

  • Data is too complicated to speak for itself

  • Needs summary and explanation

  • Most research methods qualify as answer strategies (Examples?)


Theory Empirics
Model Data strategy
Inquiry Answer strategy

Representative Surveys

Public opinion

  • The study of self-reported attitudes and behaviors

  • Primarily among general public

  • Goal: Mapping self-reports to actual attitudes and behaviors

Two challenges

  1. Asking the right questions

  2. Asking the right people

Asking the right questions

Asking the right people

What is this?

Some key sampling decisions

  • Mode (in-person, lab, phone, mail, internet)

  • Sampling frame

  • Sample size

  • Sampling procedure (completely random, stratified, quotas)

  • Oversampling

Next Week

Panel Surveys

Focus on: Worth having multiple survey waves?

Break time!



Tip before you start

  • Make a project for this course!

  • From , go to: File > New Project

  • Select New or Existing Directory (Whichever works for you)

  • Save the lab .Rmd file in the same directory

  • will automatically recognize all files within the project directory

  • Continue using the same project for all lab assignments