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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  opinion among the well and ill informed. Although none of the problematic question formats produce significantly smaller gaps between surveyed and “fully informed” opinion, differences in the size of individual-level information effects for all but questions with middle options are consistent with this account. This illustrates that smaller information effects should not be taken as prima facie evidence of improved validity or representational quality, since they may result just as easily from reliable errors generated by the way a question is worded. Table 1 also reports findings on mode effects arising from a split-sample experiment conducted in the post-election wave of the 1996 ANES. 9 While all respondents answered the same questions, half were interviewed in person at their places of residence, while the other half were interviewed over the telephone. As can be seen in this table, mode of interview had no significant effects on group depletion, the lopsidedness of well- or ill-informed opinion, or the size of information effects. A vast number of possible question format and mode effects is documented in the literature, but most are difficult to test with ANES data, since doing so requires that split-ballot tests or survey experiments be built into questionnaires. However, the small number of “problematic” question design features that can be tested with these data have no substantive impact on the size of information effects. This is largely because they tend to affect rates of DK/NO responses which are themselves unrelated to the size of information effects, and because they tend to produce the same response effects in the opinions of both ill- and well-informed respondents. While limitations in the available data preclude testing for a broader range of question format effects, the few tests that can be conducted suggest that the consistent patterns of ideological bias brought about by information effects are not merely artifacts of the survey instrument. 9 Because the American National Election Studies data are typically obtained with face-to-face interviews, mode of interview effects could not be tested in the full set of questions. But a split-sample experiment conducted in the post-election wave of the 1996 ANES provides an opportunity to assess the influence of mode effects. In this wave, respondents were randomly assigned to receive face-to-face (n=776) or telephone interviews (n=752). A total of 51 policy and value questions were asked in the post-election wave, and for each question separate measures of information effects were calculated for the group of respondents in the face-to-face condition and for the group in the telephone condition. This resulted a total of 102 collective opinions.

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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opinion among the well and ill informed. Although none of the problematic question formats
produce significantly smaller gaps between surveyed and “fully informed” opinion, differences in the
size of individual-level information effects for all but questions with middle options are consistent
with this account. This illustrates that smaller information effects should not be taken as prima facie
evidence of improved validity or representational quality, since they may result just as easily from
reliable errors generated by the way a question is worded.
Table 1 also reports findings on mode effects arising from a split-sample experiment conducted
in the post-election wave of the 1996 ANES.
9
While all respondents answered the same questions,
half were interviewed in person at their places of residence, while the other half were interviewed
over the telephone. As can be seen in this table, mode of interview had no significant effects on
group depletion, the lopsidedness of well- or ill-informed opinion, or the size of information effects.
A vast number of possible question format and mode effects is documented in the literature, but
most are difficult to test with ANES data, since doing so requires that split-ballot tests or survey
experiments be built into questionnaires. However, the small number of “problematic” question
design features that can be tested with these data have no substantive impact on the size of
information effects. This is largely because they tend to affect rates of DK/NO responses which are
themselves unrelated to the size of information effects, and because they tend to produce the same
response effects in the opinions of both ill- and well-informed respondents. While limitations in the
available data preclude testing for a broader range of question format effects, the few tests that can
be conducted suggest that the consistent patterns of ideological bias brought about by information
effects are not merely artifacts of the survey instrument.
9 Because the American National Election Studies data are typically obtained with face-to-face interviews,
mode of interview effects could not be tested in the full set of questions. But a split-sample experiment conducted in
the post-election wave of the 1996 ANES provides an opportunity to assess the influence of mode effects. In this
wave, respondents were randomly assigned to receive face-to-face (n=776) or telephone interviews (n=752). A total
of 51 policy and value questions were asked in the post-election wave, and for each question separate measures of
information effects were calculated for the group of respondents in the face-to-face condition and for the group in the
telephone condition. This resulted a total of 102 collective opinions.


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