Modern society has adopted the survey method as a principal tool for looking at itself-“a telescope on society” in the words of House et al. (2004). The most common application takes the form of the periodic media surveys that measure population attitudes and beliefs on current social and political issues:
One step removed from the media limelight is the use of the survey method in the realms of marketing and consumer research to measure the preferences, needs, expectations, and experiences of consumers and to translate these to indices and other statistics that may influence financial markets or determine quality, reliability, or volume ratings for products as diverse as automobiles, hotel services, or TV programming:
Also outside the view of most of society is the use of large-scale scientific surveys to measure labor force participation, earnings and expenditures, health and health care, commodity stocks and flows, and many other topics. These larger and longer-term programs of survey research are critically important to social scientists, health professionals, policy makers, and administrators and thus indirectly to society itself.