Representative surveys can be conducted with almost any population imaginable. It is common for surveyors to want to collect information from experts or elites in particular fields (such as policy-makers, elected officials, scientists or news editors) and other special populations (such as special interest groups, people working in particular sectors, etc.). The principles of drawing a representative sample are the same whether the sample is of the general population or some other group. Decisions must be made about the size of the sample and the level of precision desired so that the survey can provide accurate estimates for the population of interest, and any subgroups within the population that will be analyzed.

Some special challenges arise when sampling these populations. In particular, it may be difficult to find a sampling frame or list for the population of interest and this may influence how the population is defined. In addition, information may be available for only some methods of contacting potential respondents (e.g., email addresses but not phone numbers) and may vary for people within the sample. If most members in the population of interest have internet access and email addresses are available for contacting them, the web often provides a convenient and inexpensive way to survey experts or other special populations.

The Pew Research Center occasionally conducts surveys of opinion leaders, especially those in public policy roles. The opinion of elites is often compared with that of the general public to better determine whether these groups have similar or different opinions. In addition, the Pew Research Center has conducted several surveys designed to be representative of a special population including surveying scientists, journalists, Muslim Americans, Howard Dean’s campaign supporters during the 2004 presidential primary campaign, political campaign consultants and constituent groups from a sample of federal agencies.

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