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Experiments to Reduce the Over-Reporting of Voting: A Pipeline to the Truth

  • Michael J. Hanmer (a1), Antoine J. Banks (a2) and Ismail K. White (a3)

Voting is a fundamental part of any democratic society. But survey-based measures of voting are problematic because a substantial proportion of nonvoters report that they voted. This over-reporting has consequences for our understanding of voting as well as the behaviors and attitudes associated with voting. Relying on the “bogus pipeline” approach, we investigate whether altering the wording of the turnout question can cause respondents to provide more accurate responses. We attempt to reduce over-reporting simply by changing the wording of the vote question by highlighting to the respondent that: (1) we can in fact find out, via public records, whether or not they voted; and (2) we (survey administrators) know some people who say they voted did not. We examine these questions through a survey on US voting-age citizens after the 2010 midterm elections, in which we ask them about voting in those elections. Our evidence shows that the question noting we would check the records improved the accuracy of the reports by reducing the over-reporting of turnout.

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Authors' note: For helpful comments, we thank Fred Conrad, Jenna Fulton, Christina Heshmatpour, Karen Kaufmann, Vince Hutchings, Roger Tourangeau, Candace Turrito, Nick Valentino, and Eric Wish and his staff at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland. We also thank the TESS PIs, reviewers, and staff. Supplementary materials for this article are available on the Political Analysis Web site. For replication data see Hanmer, Banks, and White 2013.

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Political Analysis
  • ISSN: 1047-1987
  • EISSN: 1476-4989
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