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User Sense

Opinion research: what, why and how? 

In this article we explain more about how to conduct opinion research. We elaborate on its meaning, the different variants and provide you with a step-by-step-buide to conduct your own opinion research.

What is opinion research? 

Opinion research is a form of market research that involves collecting the opinions, attitudes, and perceptions of a particular group of people. The aim is to gain insight into public opinion and to identify trends and shifts. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or other methods to gain insight into what people think about specific topics or issues. 

Why companies conduct opinion research

There are several advantages to conducting opinion research. The three main reasons for conducting public opinion research are listed below: 

  • Understanding public opinion. Opinion research provides insight into what people think and feel about certain topics. By gaining insight into this, companies can respond to the sentiment among their target group. 

  • Informing decision-making. Based on opinion research, decision-makers, whether governments or businesses, can make more informed decisions. They can anticipate their audience’s needs, expectations, and responses. 

  • Identification of trends. Opinion research helps to identify trends and changes in society. It enables organizations to adapt to changing views and needs of the target audience. 

Methods for conducting opinion research 

Depending on the purpose, the target group, and the available resources that a company has, a decision is made for the best way to collect the necessary data. Commonly used data collection methods in opinion research are: 

  • Surveys. The most commonly used method for opinion research is to conduct surveys among the target group. Where this used to be done often through telephone interviews or face-to-face conversations, it is now very common to conduct surveys online. 

  • Interviews. To gain additional context and insights, interviews can be conducted with respondents from the target group. Although this technique often takes more time than sending out surveys, it can be useful to use it for more complex themes or topics. 

  • Focus groups. Organizing focus groups offers companies the opportunity to discuss different topics and themes in a group setting. Because participants can respond to each other, engaging in a discussion is stimulated. This often results in a better understanding of the context as well as the points of view. 

  • Social media monitoring. It is possible to see what sentiment is alive among the target group by monitoring social media. Although this allows companies to gain almost real-time insight into the opinions of their target group, it is important to consider that only monitoring social media can lead to a distorted picture. This is due to the fact that not everyone expresses themselves on social media, which means that the opinion of a certain group is less likely to be taken into account. 

  • Big data analytics. Apart from surveys, interviews, focus groups, and social media, other sources can also be consulted to study the opinion of the target group. Think, for example, of online search behaviour, or purchase history. 

As with any form of research, it is advisable to combine different methodologies in opinion research. By combining the above techniques, you will get a more complete picture and you will be able to make more reliable statements. 

Recruit respondents for opinion research 

Recruiting respondents is an important, but often time-consuming part of conducting research. This also applies to conducting opinion research. Do you want to get started with recruiting respondents yourself? Then you can use the following methods: 

  • Random sampling. To get a representative picture, it is possible to draw a random sample among the target group. You can, for example, use random numbers or random addresses and phone numbers. In practice, this often proves difficult, which is why online panels are used more often. 

  • Online panels. Companies often use online panels, where people volunteer to participate in surveys, and respondents receive compensation for their participation. An example of such a panel is the User Sense panel. 

  • Social media ads. This involves using social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to invite people to participate in a survey. It is important to consider the fact that the costs for advertising can quickly add up, which often makes the use of an online panel more appealing. 

  • Email invitations. When conducting opinion research among existing customers, email invitations are also often used. 

  • On the street or on location. To reach people who are not easily inclined to participate in online research, surveys can also be conducted face-to-face. People are asked to participate in the study at specific locations, such as at trade fairs or shopping malls. 

In order to obtain reliable results, it is important for businesses to ensure that their sample is representative of the target audience they want to study. 

Step-by-step plan for conducting opinion research 

Step 1: Goal definition and question formulation 
  • Define the specific goal of the study and formulate clear questions that you want to answer. 

Step 2: Research method 
  • Choose the most appropriate research method, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, based on the purpose of the study. Consider combining multiple methods to gather additional insights. 

Step 3: Sampling criteria and recruitment 
  • Determine the target audience and select a representative sampling method, where you can consider recruiting participants yourself or having respondents recruit. 

Step 4: Create measuring instruments 
  • Get started creating the survey questions, interview guides, or topic lists for focus groups. Use simple language as much as possible and avoid guiding questions. 

Stap 5: Pilot test 
  • Test the developed tools on a small number of participants to identify and correct any ambiguities or problems before deploying them to a large group of participants. 

Step 6: Data collection 
  • Get started with the execution and systematically collect data according to the chosen method. 

Step 7: Analysis and interpretation 
  • Analyse the collected data. Use statistical methods for analysing questionnaires or get started labelling and coding data in qualitative research. After analysing, you get to work interpreting the data. 

Step 8: Present results and draw conclusions 
  • Communicate the findings in a clear and structured way, often in the form of a research report. Be sure to draw conclusions based on the data you've collected and answer the research questions. Also add advice if necessary. 

Five tips for conducting opinion research 

  1. Have a clear goal and focus. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the goals of the study and don't change them after the research has started. This will help you formulate specific questions and select appropriate research methods. 

  2. Focus on the sample. Spend enough time defining the sampling criteria. Don't just look at the criteria within which the participants must fall, but also think about setting up cohorts to ensure a sufficient spread. This enriches the information collected and makes the survey more representative. 

  3. Standardize the survey or interview guide. A structured approach is of great importance in research. Keep questions clear and focused, avoid ambiguities, and make it easy for participants to share their thoughts. 

  4. Run a pre-test. Run a pilot test to evaluate the survey questions, interview guide, or focus group topic list. This allows you to identify and correct any problems before you distribute the study to a large group. 

  5. Be mindful of ethics and privacy. Make sure your research is ethical and complies with privacy guidelines. Inform the participants about the purpose of the study, explain how you deal with privacy and guarantee anonymity if necessary. By communicating transparently and openly about this, you increase the reliability of the research. 

Examples of opinion research 

Opinion surveys are carried out on a large scale in the Netherlands. Some examples of Dutch opinion research are: 

The EenVandaag Opinion Panel 

This is perhaps the most well-known panel in the Netherlands, where panel members are asked to give their opinion on various issues that are in the news at the time. 

Social issues by SCP 

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) conducts research into social issues in the Netherlands. This includes opinion polls on themes such as social cohesion, happiness, and the perception of well-being in society. 

Opinion Pelilingen by Maurice de Hond 

Organisations such as Maurice de Hond or Ipsos regularly conduct opinion research into the political preferences of Dutch citizens. These polls measure support for political parties and help predict election outcomes.