The RAND 2016 Presidential Election Panel Survey (PEPS) uses a unique approach to study the evolution of public opinion, voting intentions, and voter behavior.
Rather than surveying a new cross section of respondents each survey, PEPS contacts the same respondents over the course of the election cycle.
PEPS uses the ongoing RAND American Life Panel (ALP) survey, which allows responses to be linked to previous surveys on voter intentions, opinions, behavior, and life circumstances.
The ALP consists of a panel of U.S. respondents ages 18 and older. Respondents complete surveys on the web, however, in contrast to most Internet panels, ALP respondents are supplied with Internet access if needed, so the panel represents the entire U.S. adult population.
PEPS includes a subsample of 3,000 ALP members, who are asked about their opinions about political issues in the news, attitudes towards potential candidates, voting intentions, candidate preferences, underlying attitudes towards societal groups, political affiliation, prior voting behavior, and perceived personality traits of candidates and the respondents themselves.
The PEPS methodology has two primary advantages over traditional polling.
- First, each new survey can be compared to previous survey responses. This allows us to gain a better understanding of changes in voting intentions and behavior. Not only will we investigate how voting intentions change leading up to the election, but, for many respondents, we will be able to look at past behavior.
- Second, we employ a methodology called probabilistic polling. Rather than asking respondents if they intend to vote (yes/no) and for whom, we ask respondents about the probability of voting at all and the probability of voting for each candidate. Our methodology builds on the work of Manski and Delevande (2010) and Gutsche et al. (2014), which demonstrate that the approach can shed greater insight into undecided voters.
PEPS is the third election survey field through ALP. Roughly one-third completed the Continuous Presidential Election Poll surveys, and half participated in the Midterm 2014 Election Panel.