Survey Fieldwork

The survey component of this project was fielded just over one year before the Conservative victory in the 2015 UK general election, and slightly more than two years before the 2016 Brexit referendum. The survey sample was drawn from YouGov’s online panel, which comprised of more than 360,000 UK adults at the time. Those respondents had opted-in to answer surveys for the company and many were recruited through the YouGov website as well as through advertising on other websites. The company makes particular effort to recruit groups that underrepresented on the panel. When a survey is fielded via YouGov’s system, requests are sent to panellists who then click on a link and are directed to whichever survey is most in need of respondents with their characteristics. The directing of respondents is designed to maximise the representativeness of the sample, ensuring that the burden placed on the weighting process is not too great.

The survey was split into two waves to reduce the number of questions that respondents were asked in a single sitting, with the hope that their attention would be sustained and the quality of their responses maintained. Further, splitting the survey into two waves allowed the questions on perception to be temporally separated from the questions on activities. This reduced the possibility of respondents’ perceptual answers being influenced by their answers relating to activities. Thus, the first wave of the survey included sections on political activities, group membership and voluntary activity, cultural preferences and activities, and social networks. The second wave then contained sections on political opinions, perceptions of societal hierarchies and explanations for them, and background information such as parental occupation, educational level, and religious beliefs.

The various sections of the survey were tested in thirteen cognitive interviews conducted with administrative staff in the Department of Government at the University of Essex, and with staff from a range of departments at YouGov, none of whom designed or fielded surveys as part of their work. Further, the survey was circulated for comments to the team specialising in political and social polling at YouGov. Following the cognitive interviews and review by specialists the two waves were redrafted and each piloted to more than 100 respondents from the panel to check for remaining substantive or technical issues. Following final amendments, the first wave of the survey was fielded between Monday 17 March 2014 and Tuesday 01 April 2014. The second wave of the survey was then fielded between Monday 07 April 2014 and Thursday 17 April 2014.

1,904 respondents started the first wave of the survey and 1,515 of them went on to complete both the first and second waves, giving a respectable retention and completion rate of 79.6%. After cleaning, removing cases with clear signs of satisficing, and weighting, 1,405 cases remained, or 73.8% of the first wave starters. The median completion time for the first wave was just over 18 minutes whilst for the second wave it was just under 18 minutes, meaning that respondents gave around 36 minutes of their time, on average to answer the surveys. There were 201 questions included in the two waves of the survey, although respondents did not answer all of them due to filtering based on their answers, or because YouGov already held data on their previous answers to the same questions in other surveys. In the resultant dataset, questions with multiple substantive topics arranged in grids or as separate binary options are split up, which raises the number of variables to 936.

It is neither theoretically desirable nor statistically practical to include so many variables in models so this project will analyse variables separately or focus on subsets of variables that capture the concepts of interest. That analysis will be a detailed and complete look at the data, enabling the most comprehensive description to date of capital, perceptions and political activity in pre-Brexit Britain.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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