Chapter Seven: Survey research

In 2008, the voters of the United States elected our first African American president, Barack Obama. It may not surprise you to learn that when President Obama was coming of age in the 1970s, one-quarter of Americans reported they would not vote for a qualified African American presidential nominee. Three decades later, when President Obama ran for the presidency, fewer than 8% of Americans still held that position, and President Obama won the election (Smith, 2009).  We know about these trends in voter opinion because the General Social Survey,  a nationally representative survey of American adults, included questions about race and voting over the years described here. Without survey research, we may not know how Americans’ perspectives on race and the presidency shifted over these years.

Chapter Outline

  • 7.1 Survey research: What is it and when should it be used?
  • 7.2 Assessing survey research
  • 7.3 Types of surveys
  • 7.4 Designing effective questions and questionnaires

Content Advisory

This chapter discusses or mentions the following topics: physical and psychological abusive behaviors in dating and romantic relationships, racism, mental health, terrorism and 9/11, substance use, and sexism and ageism in the workplace.

Image attributions


All figures in this chapter were copied from Blackstone, A. (2012) Principles of sociological inquiry: Qualitative and quantitative methods. Saylor Foundation. Retrieved from: Shared under CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 License



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Foundations of Social Work Research Copyright © 2020 by Rebecca L. Mauldin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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