A method of polarization spectroscopy for a conducting surface characterized by a high sensitivity to the state of the surface and its transition layer is proposed. The method uses excitation of surface electromagnetic waves (SEWs) by a linearly polarized probe beam incident on the surface under study and compensation for the phase shift between the p and s components arising upon the SEW excitation. The applicability and competitiveness of the method in both the visible and the IR range is established. The method is tested on an LEF-3M ellipsometer in the visible range by studying the oxidation process in an evaporated copper film. © 2007 MAIK "Nauka/Interperiodica".