Unlike audience analysis by direct observation and analysis by inference, audience analysis by data sampling uses statistical evidence to quantify and clarify the characteristics of your audience (data is the plural form of datum). These characteristics are also known as variables, and are assigned a numerical value so we can systematically collect and classify them. They are reported as statistics, also known as quantitative analysis or quantitative data collection. Statistics are numerical summaries of facts, figures, and research findings. Audience analysis by data sampling requires you to survey your audience before you give your speech. You need to know the basics of doing a survey before you actually collect and interpret your data.
The Basic Questionnaire
There are a great number of survey methods available to the speaker. However, we will cover three primary types in this section because they are utilized the most. The first type of survey method you should know about is the basic questionnaire, which is a series of questions advanced to produce demographic and attitudinal data from your audience. You can easily gather information from your audience, using questions similar to these below:
|My academic level in college:
My age is:
My marital status is:
I currently have:
I can best be classified as being:
Clearly, audience members should not be required to identify themselves by name on the basic questionnaire. Anonymous questionnaires are more likely to produce truthful information. Remember, all you are looking for is a general read of your audience, you should not be looking for specific information about any respondent concerning your questionnaire in particular. It is a bulk sampling tool, only.
While you can gather basic demographic data (as shown above) easily, we need to adjust our questions a bit more tightly, or ask more focused questions, in order to understand the audience’s
“predispositions” to think or act in certain ways. For example, an attitudinal extension on the basic questionnaire might ask some of the following questions:
I regard myself as a:
I believe that:
I believe that abortion is:
These questions probe more deeply into the psyche of your audience members, and will help you see where they stand on certain issues. Of course, you may need to change these questions a bit to get to the heart of your specific topic. But, once you do, you’ll have a wealth of data at your disposal which, ultimately, will tell you how to work with your target audience.
Value Hierarchy by Ordered Categories
Another method of finding out your audience’s value set is to survey them according to their value hierarchy. A value hierarchy is a person’s value structure placed in relationship to a given value set. The way to determine a person’s value hierarchy is to use the ordered categories sampling method. In ordered categories, the surveyor lists a number of values on a piece of paper, and asks the respondent to order them on another piece of paper, according to their importance to the respondent (the respondent is the person who fills out the questionnaire). What occurs is that the respondent takes a series of values and, in turn, develops them into a concrete self-ordered list. Each response is different, but when analyzed by the speaker, common themes will present themselves in the overall data. Accordingly, the speaker can then identify with those common value themes. See the example below for a given speech on “homeland security initiatives:"
Targeted Value Set
Ordered Value Set
Likert-type Testing of Attitudes
The final method of assessing your audience’s attitudes deals with Likert-type testing. Likert-type testing is when you make a statement, and ask the respondent to gauge the depth of their sentiments toward that statement either positively, negatively, or neutrally. Typically, each scale will have 5 weighted response categories, being +2, +1, 0, -1, and -2. What the Likert-type test does, that other tests do not do, is measure the extent to which attitudes are held. See how the Likert-type test does this in the speech example on “unsolicited email” below:
|UNSOLICITED EMAIL||Strongly Agree||Agree||Neither Agree nor Disagree||Disagree||Strongly Disagree|
|1. Unsolicited email should be illegal||1||2||3||4||5|
|2. Making unsolicited email illegal would be fundamentally unfair to
|3. Making unsolicited email illegal would be a violation of the First Amendment (Free Speech)||1||2||3||4||5|
|4. I usually delete unsolicited email before ever opening it||1||2||3||4||5|
|5. I sometimes unsolicited email when I am bored||1||2||3||4||5|
A small Likert-type test will tell you where your audience, generally speaking, stands on issues. As well, it will inform you as to the degree of the audience’s beliefs on these issues. The Likert-type test should be used when attempting to assess a highly charged or polarizing issue, because it will tell you, in rough numbers, whether or not your audience agrees or disagrees with your planned advocacy.