Observations over a wide range of wavelengths, 2.2 ≤ λ ≤ 73 cm, have been combined to define the wavelength variation of the degree of linear polarization m(λ) for 120 quasars with known redshift. For the majority, m(λ) decreases monotonically with increasing wavelength but for 35 sources the polarization curve is inverted at short wavelengths. A classification is given, based on both the polarization curve and the radio spectrum, and the results are interpreted in terms of the presence or absence of opaque components in the source. The depolarization which occurs at long wavelengths is accounted for by a combination of spectral effects and Faraday depolarization. For 46 steep-spectrum sources the depolarization curve appears to be dominated by the Faraday effect, and has been used to deduce the electron density within the radiating components. In this group of sources the correlation between depolarization and redshift noted by Kronberg et al. is confirmed and strengthened. A discussion is given of some theoretical models of radio sources in the light of the depolarization data.