Scholars of political behavior increasingly embed experimental designs in opinion surveys by randomly assigning respondents alternative versions of questionnaire items. Such experiments have major advantages: they are simple to implement and they dodge some of the difficulties of making inferences from conventional survey data. But survey experiments are no panacea. We identify problems of inference associated with typical uses of survey experiments in political science and highlight a range of difficulties, some of which have straightforward solutions within the survey-experimental approach and some of which can be dealt with only by exercising greater caution in interpreting findings and bringing to bear alternative strategies of research.
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