The degree of polarization (DOP) of laser-speckle fields, where the speckles were generated by a polarized laser beam incident upon two kinds of samples: ground glass and wax, was investigated within a single coherence area as well as over multiple coherence areas. For the surface-scattering ground glass, the incident polarization state was preserved in the speckle field, and hence the DOP remained at unity regardless of the area of detection. For the volume-scattering wax, the polarization states varied with positions in the field, and consequently the DOP depended on the area of detection: the DOP decreased with an increasing area of detection, and only when the area was much smaller than the coherence area would the DOP approach unity. A numerical simulation explained the experimental observation. These results are important for the understanding of polarization phenomena in turbid media such as biological tissue. © 2002 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.