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An experiment on the measurement of political knowledge in surveys

An experiment on the measurement of political knowledge in surveys
An experiment on the measurement of political knowledge in surveys
In a series of articles, Mondak and colleagues argue that the conventional way of measuring political knowledge in surveys is flawed. Personality related "propensity to guess" underestimates the level of political knowledge in the population and distorts estimates of between group differences, when a DK alternative is offered. This has led Mondak to recommend the use of closed-ended items on which DKs are not explicitly offered, following best practice in the field of educational testing. In this article, we present the results of an experimental study which calls into question the wisdom of this approach. Our results show little evidence of partial knowledge concealed within DK responses; when people who initially select a DK alternative are subsequently asked to provide a "best guess," they fare statistically no better than chance. We conclude that opinion researchers should be cautious about adopting Mondak's recommendations for the design of political knowledge items in surveys.
0033-362X
90-102
Sturgis, Patrick
b9f6b40c-50d2-4117-805a-577b501d0b3c
Allum, Nick
849dfc6c-00ce-4383-bb5c-4d67985f5576
Smith, Patten
a4bae730-e2b6-4982-b3f7-b3b2d186d37b
Sturgis, Patrick
b9f6b40c-50d2-4117-805a-577b501d0b3c
Allum, Nick
849dfc6c-00ce-4383-bb5c-4d67985f5576
Smith, Patten
a4bae730-e2b6-4982-b3f7-b3b2d186d37b

Sturgis, Patrick, Allum, Nick and Smith, Patten (2008) An experiment on the measurement of political knowledge in surveys. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72 (1), 90-102. (doi:10.1093/poq/nfm032).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In a series of articles, Mondak and colleagues argue that the conventional way of measuring political knowledge in surveys is flawed. Personality related "propensity to guess" underestimates the level of political knowledge in the population and distorts estimates of between group differences, when a DK alternative is offered. This has led Mondak to recommend the use of closed-ended items on which DKs are not explicitly offered, following best practice in the field of educational testing. In this article, we present the results of an experimental study which calls into question the wisdom of this approach. Our results show little evidence of partial knowledge concealed within DK responses; when people who initially select a DK alternative are subsequently asked to provide a "best guess," they fare statistically no better than chance. We conclude that opinion researchers should be cautious about adopting Mondak's recommendations for the design of political knowledge items in surveys.

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Published date: 2008

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 64634
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/64634
ISSN: 0033-362X
PURE UUID: b5d13b59-3630-401a-a5fe-6e9e734bac76
ORCID for Patrick Sturgis: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1180-3493

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Date deposited: 15 Jan 2009
Last modified: 14 Mar 2019 01:39

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