Revision as of 08:44, 8 July 2011 by Scott Huffmon
Response Effects refer to the phenomenon where something about the survey process impacts the responses given by survey respondents. While it is impossible to eliminate all response effects, it is possible to reduce or eliminate the structural causes of many response effects (that is, when the structure of the survey, such as the order of questions or alternatives, the wording of questions, etc. is the cause) and minimize the impact of others (for example, response effects caused by the race or sex of interviewer can be minimized by randomization in the sampling process)
Framing refers to the use of language, words, or phrases which are likely to lead survey respondents to give certain types of answers.
Example of Framing
In one poll of adults 18 and older in York County, SC conducted in 2003, two versions of one question were included to demonstrate the phenomenon of framing. Respondents were randomly selected to receive one of the versions. In a series of questions where respondents were asked to Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither Agree nor Disagree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree with a statement, half of the respondents received Version A of one statement while half received Version B.
Version A: "I don't mind if the government keeps tabs on regular people."Results:
Note: The majority of respondents value their privacy and do not approve of the government keeping tabs on them.
Version B: "I don't mind if the government keeps tabs on regular people if it helps keep us safer from terrorism."
Note: Now, the majority of respondents appear to be willing to sacrifice their privacy for perceived safety.
Side by side comparison of Versions A and B:
By creating a frame of "terrorism" for the question, respondents gave a different answer than they otherwise might. Whether you attribute the cause to placing terrorism at the "top of the head" of the respondent<ref>Zaller, John (1992). The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinions. Cambridge University Press. </ref> or causing them to consult a different core predisposition<ref>Alvarez, R. Michael; Brehm, John (2002). Hard Choices, Easy Answers: Values, Information, and American Public Opinion. Princeton University Press. </ref>, the result of altering their response is the same.
Michael Parkin defines priming as the "psychological process in which exposure to a stimulus activates a concept in memory that is then given increased weight in subsequent judgment tasks. Priming works by making the activated concept accessible so that it can be readily used in evaluating related objects."<ref>Parkin, Michael (2008). "Priming". In Paul J. Lavrakas. Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods. Sage. </ref>
Example of Priming
In surveys, Priming response effects are often the result of question order. Imagine a survey that seeks to measure individual's concerns about the economy. If respondents are asked what they consider to be the most important problem facing their country or state after they have been asked a series of questions regarding economic concerns, they may be more like to cite the economy at the "most important problem."
Priming due to question order may also change the criteria used for judgement or evaluation. Asking a series of questions about the economy before asking respondents to evaluate the U.S. president may result in higher evaluations than might otherwise be expected in economic good times and lower than expected evaluations in an economic downturn. Similarly, asking for a presidential evaluation after a series of questions regarding foreign military engagements may result in the individual subconsciously creating their evaluation of the president based on their attitudes regarding foreign policy rather than any domestic issue.
In fact, for these reasons, most political surveys ask questions regarding approval or evaluation for candidates or elected officials, as well as questions regarding the most important problem or issue facing the country or state, somewhere near the beginning of the survey.
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