Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-n9lxd Total loading time: 0.383 Render date: 2022-10-01T05:28:37.603Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Asking About Numbers: Why and How

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2017

Stephen Ansolabehere
Affiliation:
Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA e-mail: sda@gov.harvard.edu
Marc Meredith
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA e-mail: marcmere@sas.upenn.edu
Erik Snowberg*
Affiliation:
Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, and National Bureau of Economic Research
*
e-mail: snowberg@caltech.edu (corresponding author)

Abstract

Survey questions about quantities offer a number of advantages over more common qualitative questions. However, concerns about survey respondents' abilities to accurately report numbers have limited the use of quantitative questions. This article shows quantitative questions are feasible and useful for the study of economic voting. First, survey respondents are capable of accurately assessing familiar economic quantities, such as the price of gas. Second, careful question design—in particular providing respondents with benchmark quantities—can reduce measurement error due to respondents not understanding the scale on which more complex quantities, such as the unemployment rate, are measured. Third, combining quantitative and qualitative questions sheds light on where partisan bias enters economic assessments: in perceiving, judging, or reporting economic quantities.

Type
Regular Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Political Methodology 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

Authors' note: We thank Mike Alvarez, Conor Dowling, Ray Duch, Jon Eguia, Ken Scheve, Emily Thorson, and Chris Wlezien for encouragement and suggestions, and seminar audiences at Columbia, MIT, MPSA, NYU, Temple, Wharton, and Yale for useful feedback and comments. Replication data may be found in Ansolabehere, Meredith, and Snowberg (2012). Supplementary Materials for this article are available on the Political Analysis Web site.

References

Alesina, Alberto, Londregan, John, and Rosenthal, Howard. 1993. A model of the political economy of the United States. American Political Science Review 87(1): 1233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Christopher J., Mendes, Silvia M., and Tverdova, Yuliya V. 2004. Endogenous economic voting: Evidence from the 1997 British election. Electoral Studies 23(4): 683708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen. 2011. CCES Common Content, 2008. Version 4, http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/14003 (accessed June 12, 2012).Google Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Meredith, Marc, and Snowberg, Erik. 2011a. Mecro-economic voting: Local information and micro-perceptions of the macro-economy. Presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Meredith, Marc, and Snowberg, Erik. 2011b. Sociotropic voting and the media. In The ANES book of ideas, eds. Aldrich, John H. and McGraw, Kathleen. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Snowberg, Erik, and Snyder, James M. 2005. Unrepresentative information the case of newspaper reporting on campaign finance. Public Opinion Quarterly 69(2): 213–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Meredith, Marc, and Snowberg, Erik. 2012. Replication data for: Asking about numbers: Why and how. http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/18787 IQSS Dataverse Network [Distributor] V1 [Version].Google Scholar
Bartels, Larry M. 2002. Beyond the running tally: Partisan bias in political perceptions. Political Behavior 24(2): 117–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beyth-Marom, Ruth. 1982. How probable is probable? A numerical translation of verbal probability expressions. Journal of Forecasting 1(3): 257–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blendon, Robert J., Benson, John M., Brodie, Mollyann, Morin, Richard, Altman, Drew E., Gitterman, Daniel, Brossard, Mario, and James, Matt. 1997. Bridging the gap between the public's and economists’ views of the economy. Journal of Economic Perspectives 11(3): 105–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blinder, Alan S., and Krueger, Alan B. 2004. What does the public know about economic policy, and how does it know it? Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2004(1): 327–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruine de Bruin, Wandi, Fischhoff, Baruch, Millstein, Susan G., and Halpern-Felsher, Bonnie L. 2000. Verbal and numerical expressions of probability: It is a fifty-fifty change. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 81(1): 115–31.Google Scholar
Bullock, John G., Gerber, Alan S., and Huber, Gregory A. 2010. Partisan bias in factual beliefs about politics. Mimeo, Yale University.Google Scholar
Cleveland, William S., Devlin, Susan J., and Grosse, Eric. 1988. Regression by local fitting: Methods, properties, and computational algorithms. Journal of Econometrics 37(1): 87114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conover, Pamela Johnstone, Feldman, Stanley, and Knight, Kathleen. 1986. Judging inflation and unemployment: The origins of retrospective evaluations. Journal of Politics 48(3): 565–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Converse, Philip E. 1964. The nature of beliefs systems in mass publics. In Ideology and discontent, ed. Apter, David E. Glencoe, IL: Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
Curtin, Richard. 2007. What U.S. consumers know about economic conditions. Memeo, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
Erev, Ido, and Cohen, Brent L. 1990. Verbal versus numerical probabilities: Efficiency, biases, and the preference paradox. Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes 45(1): 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erikson, Robert S., MacKuen, Michael B., and Stimson, James A. 2002. The macro polity. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Evans, Geoffrey, and Pickup, Mark. 2010. Reversing the causal arrow: The political conditioning of economic perceptions in the 2000–2004 U.S. presidential election cycle. Journal of Politics 72(4): 1236–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Evans, Geoffrey, and Andersen, Robert. 2006. The political conditioning of economic perceptions. Journal of Politics 68(1): 194207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fair, Ray C. 1978. The effect of economic events on votes for president. Review of Economics and Statistics 60(2): 159–73.Google Scholar
Fox, Gerald T. 2009. Partisan divide on war and the economy: Presidential approval of G. W. Bush. Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(6): 905–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., and Huber, Gregory K. 2009. Partisanship and economic behavior: Do partisan differences in economic forecasts predict real economic behavior?. American Political Science Review 103(3): 407–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., and Huber, Gregory K. 2010. Partisanship, political control, and economic assessments. American Journal of Political Science 54(1): 153–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 2001. Political ignorance and collective policy preferences. American Political Science Review 95(2): 379–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Groves, Robert M., Fowler, Floyd J. Jr., Couper, Mick P., Lepkowski, James M., Singer, Eleanor, and Tourangeau, Roger. 2004. Survey methodology. Hoboken, NJ, Wiley.Google Scholar
Herda, Daniel. 2010. How many immigrants? Foreign-born population innumeracy in Europe. Public Opinion Quarterly 74(4): 674–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hetherington, Marc J. 1996. The media's role in forming voters’ national economic evaluations in 1992. American Journal of Political Science 40(2): 372–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holbrook, Thomas, and Garand, James C. 1996. Homo economus? Economic information and economic voting. Political Research Quarterly 49(2): 351–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Imbens, Guido W., and Lemieux, Thomas. 2008. Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice. Journal of Econometrics 142(2): 615–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Juster, F. Thomas. 1966. Consumer buying intentions and purchase probability: An experiment in survey design. Journal of the American Statistical Association 61(315): 658–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kahneman, Daniel, and Tversky, Amos. 1979. Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica 47(2): 263–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaplowitz, Stan A., Fisher, Bradley J., and Broman, Clifford L. 2003. How accurate are perceptions of social statistics about blacks and whites? Effects of race and education. Public Opinion Quarterly 67(2): 237–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kinder, Donald R., and Roderick Kiewiet, D. 1979. Economic discontent and political behavior: The role of personal grievances and collective economic judgments in congressional voting. American Journal of Political Science 23(3): 495527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kinder, Donald R., and Roderick Kiewiet, D. 1981. Sociotropic politics: The American case. British Journal of Political Science 11(2): 129–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kramer, Gerald H. 1971. Short-term fluctuations in U.S. voting behavior, 1896–1964. American Political Science Review 65(1): 131–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kramer, Gerald H. 1983. The ecological fallacy revisited: Aggregate-versus individual-level findings on economics and elections, and sociotropic voting. American Political Science Review 77(1): 92111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krosnick, Jon A. 1991. Response strategies for coping with the cognitive demands of attitude measures in surveys. Applied Cognitive Psychology 5(3): 213–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuklinski, James H., Quirk, Paul J., Jerit, Jennifer, and Rich David Schwieder, Robert F. 2000. Misinformation and the currency of democratic citizenship. Journal of Politics 62(3): 790816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacKuen, Michael B., Erikson, Robert S., and Stimson, James A. 1992. Peasants or bankers? The American electorate and the U.S. economy. American Political Science Review 86(3): 597611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Malhotra, Neil, and Krosnick, Jon A. 2007. The effect of survey mode and sampling on inferences about political attitudes and behavior: Comparing the 2000 and 2004 ANES to Internet surveys with nonprobability samples. Political Analysis 15(3): 286323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Manski, Charles F. 2004. Measuring expectations. Econometrica 72(5): 1329–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martinez, Michael D., Wald, Kenneth D., and Craig, Stephen C. 2008. Homophobic innumeracy? Estimating the size of the gay and lesbian population. Public Opinion Quarterly 72(4): 753–67.Google Scholar
Moxey, Linda M., and Sanford, Anthony J. 2000. Communicating quantities: A review of psycholinguistic evidence of how expressions determine perspectives. Applied Cognitive Psychology 14(3): 237–55.3.0.CO;2-R>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nadeau, Richard, and Niemi, Richard G. 1995. Educated guesses: The process of answering factual knowledge questions in surveys. Public Opinion Quarterly 59(3): 323–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nadeau, Richard, Niemi, Richard G., and Levine, Jeffrey. 1993. Innumeracy about minority populations. Public Opinion Quarterly 57(3): 332–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Palmer, Harvey D., and Duch, Raymond M. 2001. Do surveys provide representative or whimsical assessments of the economy? Political Analysis 9(1): 5877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rockwood, Todd H., Sangster, Roberta L., and Dillman, Don A. 1997. The effect of response categories on questionnaire answers: Context and mode effects. Sociological Methods & Research 26(1): 118–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schuman, Howard, and Presser, Stanley. 1981. Questions and answers in attitude surveys. New York, Academic Press.Google Scholar
Schwarz, Norbert, Hippler, Hans-J., Deutsch, Brigitte, and Strack, Fritz. 1985. Response scales: Effects of category range on reported behavior and comparative judgments. Public Opinion Quarterly 49(3): 388–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sigelman, Lee, and Niemi, Richard G. 2001. Innumeracy about minority populations: African Americans and Whites compared. Public Opinion Quarterly 65(1): 8694.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Snowberg, Erik, and Wolfers, Justin. 2010. Explaining the favorite-longshot bias: Is it risk-love or misperceptions? Journal of Political Economy 118(4): 723–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stephenson, Laura B., and Crête, Jean. 2011. Studying political behavior: A comparison of Internet and telephone surveys. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 23(1): 2455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sturgis, Patrick, Choo, Martin, and Smith, Patten. 2009. Response order, party choice, and evaluations of the national economy: A survey experiment. Survey Research Methods 3(1): 712.Google Scholar
Tourangeau, Roger, Rasinski, Kenneth, Jobe, Jared B., Smith, Tom W., and Pratt, William F. 1997. Sources of error in a survey on sexual behavior. Journal of Official Statistics 13(4): 341–65.Google Scholar
Tourangeau, Roger, and Smith, Tom W. 1996. Asking sensitive questions: The impact of data collection mode, question format, and question context. Public Opinion Quarterly 60(2): 275304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van der Brug, Wouter, van der Eijk, Cees, and Franklin, Mark. 2007. The economy and the vote: economic conditions and elections in fifteen countries. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wallsten, Thomas S. 1986. Measuring the vague meanings of probability terms. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 115(4): 348–65.Google Scholar
Wallsten, Thomas S., Budescu, David V., Zwick, Rami, and Kemp, Steven M. 1993. Preference and reasons for communicating probabilistic information in numerical or verbal terms. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 31: 135–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilcox, Nathaniel, and Wlezien, Christopher. 1993. The contamination of responses to survey items: Economic perceptions and political judgments. Political Analysis 5(1): 181213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wlezien, Christopher, Franklin, Mark, and Twiggs, Daniel. 1997. Economic perceptions and vote choice: Disentangling the endogeneity. Political Behavior 19(1): 717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wright, Daniel B., Gaskell, George D., and O'Muircheartaigh, Colm A. 1994. How much is quite a bit? Mapping between numerical values and vague quantifiers. Applied Cognitive Psychology 8: 479–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yeager, David S., Krosnick, Jon A., Chang, LinChiat, Javitz, Harold S., Levindusky, Matthew S., Simpser, Alberto, and Wang, Rui. 2009. Comparing the accuracy of RDD telephone surveys and Internet surveys conducted with probability and non-probability samples. Mimeo, Stanford University.Google Scholar
Zaller, John. 1992. The nature and origins of mass opinion. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zaller, John, and Feldman, Stanley. 1992. A simple theory of the survey response: Answering questions versus revealing preferences. American Journal of Political Science 36(3): 579616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
37
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Asking About Numbers: Why and How
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Asking About Numbers: Why and How
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Asking About Numbers: Why and How
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *