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Probability-based panel

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NatCen Social Research offers you the chance to place questions on Britain’s first award-winning probability-based online and telephone panel.

The panel utilises a high quality recruitment method that ensures a representative sample at affordable prices, and also includes the offline population. 

In 2017 it won the Innovation in Research Methods category and the Grand Prix Award for Greatest Impact at the prestigious Market Research Society Awards. 

Judges for the awards commented:

“NatCen’s paper on the development of their panel is a perfect example of research excellence. It [...] shows that research cares about what it is doing and cares about doing it well.”

Running six times a year, our omnibus survey offers the chance to quickly gauge public opinion and behaviour using robust methods.

Whether you are evaluating a policy, contributing to public debate, or lobbying for a cause, our panel provides high quality data in a short timeframe.

The most methodologically rigorous panel in Britain

  • Uses the methodology recommended by the recent Polling Inquiry into the 2015 election
  • Probability-based approach to recruitment avoids in-built bias commonly found in online panel sampling methods
  • Able to recruit harder-to-reach and less readily available groups through intensive fieldwork effort
  • Inclusive of those unable to participate online

Our panel in short

  • Data collected online and over the phone over a 4-week period
  • Surveys run 6 times per year, with an interview length of up to 15 minutes
  • Expected sample sizes of either 1,250 or 2,500
  • Adults aged 18+ in England, Scotland and Wales
  • As little as 8 weeks from commissioning questions to receiving data
  • Winner of the Innovation in Research Methods category at the Market Research Society Awards. 

What funders receive

  • Data. Data available in a variety of formats (e.g. Excel, SPSS, .csv etc.)
  • Expertise. Access to our survey designers and analysis and policy experts.
  • Support. As well as asking questions, we can support you with a full range of complementary research services with a special discount, including reporting, analysis and significance testing.

For more information


What makes our panel unique?

High quality

Our probability-based approach to recruitment avoids the bias introduced when building other types of panel. Our surveys use a random sampling approach and do not rely on quotas or self-selection. This allows us to properly apply common statistical tests, like confidence intervals and significance testing.

While non-random approaches recruit using demographic quotas - like age, sex and region - they may fail to account for other unknown biases. This can have a real effect on results. 

For example, non-voters are typically less likely to take part in research, so approaches that allow participants to self-select, or only include ‘early responders’, find it difficult to represent this group. This was demonstrated following the failure of pollsters to predict the 2015 election.

All our panel members are recruited face-to-face from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey, so we are able to weight our data using a wealth of demographic and behavioural data to make it representative


Our unique methodology ensures that we reach all sections of society – including the 14% of the public who are not online. Those unable to take part on the web can do so over the phone.

This way, we are inclusive of groups who typically suffer from digital exclusion, like those aged over 65, on low incomes, with a disability, with low levels of education or living in social housing.

Including the offline population is fundamental to representative research. Their views and characteristics often differ significantly from the general population - even on issues not directly related to digital participation.

Our 4-week fieldwork period means we make multiple attempts to encourage people to take part. This means we don’t just speak to people who are readily-available, who tend to be different to those that are harder-to-reach. This also means our results aren’t swayed by the news events of a day.


The time between commissioning questions to data delivery is as little as 8 weeks. Our panel provides a probability-based method within a timeframe that that allows funders to make a timely response to current events.

Enriching your data

Because NatCen is a full-service social research agency, we offer panel funders reduced rates on other services, like questionnaire design and testing, advanced data analysis and qualitative follow-up. What’s more, we can provide access and advice on complementary data, including over 30 years of trends from the British Social Attitudes survey.

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