Explainer-How are Reuters/Ipsos US public opinion polls conducted?

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 5:10 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Reuters/Ipsos conducts polls of national U.S. public opinion on a variety of political, business and social topics including a monthly reading on the approval of the president and other government entities, such as Congress and the Supreme Court.


Public opinion polls capture respondents’ views at a particular moment in time. By reaching out to groups of people designed to represent the broader U.S. population, they provide a projection of national opinion.


Ipsos uses its proprietary “KnowledgePanel,” a representative sample of Americans aged 18 and over.

Participants are selected through a postal address-based sampling method that includes all U.S. households. They are polled online. Respondents who do not already have internet access are provided with internet service and a tablet at no cost.

The data is weighted to reflect U.S. Census data on how the broader U.S. population breaks down by factors including gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity (people of Hispanic descent are the nation’s second largest ethnic group), education, household income and census region.

Data may also be weighted to account for political composition using self-reported 2020 presidential vote choice (benchmarked to election results) or partisan self-identification (benchmarked to the Pew Research NPORS study).

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE POLLED?    Six times a year, Reuters/Ipsos conducts a poll of at least 4,000 respondents over roughly a week. These polls have a margin of error of about 1.5 percentage points for the fullsample, with higher margins of error for smaller sub-groups of respondents.

Over the course of the year Reuters/Ipsos conducts at least 24 polls of presidential approval and other topics. Those polls reach at least 1,000 people over a few days and typically have a margin of error of about 3.5 percentage points for the full sample.


Margin of error is a statistical term intended to express the possible variation between a poll’s finding and what the result would be if the full population were polled. If a representative poll of the U.S. population finds that 75% of respondents prefer ice cream to Brussels sprouts and has a 3% margin of error, that means that in the full population somewhere between 72% and 78% of Americans hold that preference.

WHAT ARE SOME LIMITS OF THE REUTERS/IPSOS POLL?    The Reuters/Ipsos poll is designed to be nationally representative. That can limit its utility in projecting the outcome of presidential elections, which are decided on astate-by-state basis. Nonpartisan election forecasters believe a handful of states – likely Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – will determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election.

(Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Deepa Babington)