Surveying and Observing Political Elites

  • Juan Rodríguez-Teruel
  • Jean-Pascal Daloz


Surveys and observation are two strategies of inquiry that gather rich amounts of data about political elites’ opinions, attitudes, and behavior. These research techniques have experienced advances benefitting from the development of the Internet and new technological tools. Survey research has evolved from country studies to comparative research with greater amounts of units and cases. However, such studies face important challenges regarding questionnaire design, sampling, interviewing, and data analysis. In particular, problems of representativity and lack of control may threaten comparative analysis. On their side, observation techniques raise the question of accessibility, of potential imbalance between investigators and elites but also, paradoxically, risks of excessive empathy between observer and observed. Wealth of information is a leading hallmark of qualitative research and can give rise to “thick” descriptions and interpretations. Such a contextual “richness,” which provides greater texture and nuance, is highly desirable when the aim is to produce monographic studies. However, it is somewhat more problematic where theoretical ambitions or even comparisons are involved. This chapter offers an overview of both techniques in terms of recent contributions and methodological issues, and suggests how to address these challenges in elite research.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Rodríguez-Teruel
    • 1
  • Jean-Pascal Daloz
    • 2
  1. 1.University of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.CNRS, SAGEStrasbourgFrance

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