The Total Survey Error Approach A Guide to the New Science of Survey Research
by Herbert F. Weisberg
University of Chicago Press, 2005
Cloth: 978-0-226-89127-9 | Paper: 978-0-226-89128-6 | Electronic: 978-0-226-89129-3


In 1939, George Gallup's American Institute of Public Opinion published a pamphlet optimistically titled The New Science of Public Opinion Measurement. At the time, though, survey research was in its infancy, and only now, six decades later, can public opinion measurement be appropriately called a science, based in part on the development of the total survey error approach.

Herbert F. Weisberg's handbook presents a unified method for conducting good survey research centered on the various types of errors that can occur in surveys—from measurement and nonresponse error to coverage and sampling error. Each chapter is built on theoretical elements drawn from specific disciplines, such as social psychology and statistics, and follows through with detailed treatments of the specific types of error and their potential solutions. Throughout, Weisberg is attentive to survey constraints, including time and ethical considerations, as well as controversies within the field and the effects of new technology on the survey process—from Internet surveys to those completed by phone, by mail, and in person. Practitioners and students will find this comprehensive guide particularly useful now that survey research has assumed a primary place in both public and academic circles.


Herbert F. Weisberg is professor of political science and director of the Center for Survey Research at The Ohio State University. He is coauthor of Introduction to Survey Research, Polling, and Data Analysis, now in its third edition.


“Innovative and distinctive, this book will appeal to a wide scholarly audience, particularly those interested in a single volume that covers the area on a sophisticated and theoretical level, reviews most of the relevant literature, and gives the tools to actually do a survey.”

— Ronald Rapoport, The College of William & Mary

The Total Survey Error Approach is well written and accessible. There is no other text that takes such a broad view of the field in such a straightforward fashion.”

— Michael W. Traugott, University of Michigan

“This book is appropriate for many survey research methods courses. It will be useful for both instructors and survey research professionals. I would use it in my survey methods class and recommend it to the staff in my organization.”

— John Kennedy, director of the Center for Survey Research, Indiana University

"A very useful guide to current practices in the design and conduct of surveys."
— M.E. Thompson, Publication of the International Statistical Institute



PART I Survey Error Theory

1 Scientific Survey Research

2 Survey Error

3 Survey Modes

PART II Response Accuracy Issues

4 Measurement Error Due to Interviewers

5 Measurement Error Due to Respondents, I

6 Measurement Error Due to Respondents, II

7 Nonresponse Error at the Item Level

PART III Respondent Selection Issues

8 Nonresponse Error at the Unit Level

9 Coverage Error

10 Sampling Error

PART IV Survey Administration Issues

11 Postsurvey Error

12 Mode Differences

13 Comparability Effects

PART V Total Survey Error

14 Ethics in Surveys

15 Survey Errors

Appendix: Meta-analysis



Name Index

Subject Index