Tracking opinion over time: A method for reducing sampling error

Donald P. Green, Alan S. Gerber, Suzanna L. De Boef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Across a wide range of applications, the Kalman filtering and smoothing algorithm provides survey researchers with a single, systematic technique by which to generate four kinds of useful information. First, it enables survey analysts to differentiate between random sampling error and true opinion change. Second, Kalman smoothing provides a means by which to accumulate information across surveys, greatly increasing the precision with which public opinion is gauged at any given point in time. Third, this technique provides a rigorous means by which to interpolate missing observations and calculate the uncertainty associated with these interpolations. Finally, the Kalman algorithm improves the accuracy with which public opinion may be forecasted. Our empirical examples, which focus on party identification, show that the Kalman algorithm can dramatically reduce sampling error in survey data. Since software implementing this technique is readily available, survey analysts are encouraged to use it to make more efficient use of the data at their disposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-192
Number of pages15
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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