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Improving the measurement of policy preferences in surveys : bringing the status-quo back in

[conference paper]

Gschwend, Thomas; Proksch, Sven-Oliver

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Abstract "One of the fundamental uses of surveys is the measurement of policy preferences. We can ask voters how they locate themselves on policy dimensions of substantive interests, and we can ask them how they perceive the positions of political parties. Likewise, we can use surveys to get political elite to reveal their policy positions or experts to judge the positions of parties on a set of salient policy dimensions. Increasingly, such surveys present respondents with issue scales defined as trade-offs between different policy goals. Surprisingly, scholars have not paid much attention to the fact that such scales are directional and include an implicit reference point: the status quo. We examine the effects of indicating an explicit status quo midpoint in trade-off issue questions using an experimental setup in an online survey that was part of the German National Election Study in 2009. We show that status quo labeling has three major effects. First, the indication of the status quo significantly reduces item non-response. Second, issue scales with status quo indication change respondents' self-placement and the perception of political parties due to the provision of an explicit reference point. Third, individually perceived ideological distances between a voter and her preferred party are smaller when a status quo is indicated. This leads to a slightly stronger predictor of ideological distance in a conditional logit model of vote choice. The findings have implications for designers and users of voter and expert surveys." (author's abstract)
Keywords voter; voting behavior; party; political elite; preference; survey; attitude; measurement; response behavior; self-assessment
Classification Methods and Techniques of Data Collection and Data Analysis, Statistical Methods, Computer Methods; Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture
Method basic research; development of methods
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
City Mannheim
Page/Pages 26 p.
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne