Many factors are important when it comes to conducting high quality elite interviews. As my colleagues have noted in their presentations in San Francisco and in their essays in this issue, gaining valid and reliable data from elite interviews demands that researchers be well prepared, construct sound questions, establish a rapport with respondents, know how to write up their notes, and code responses accurately and consistently. Improving these skills will certainly reduce the amount of measurement error contained in interview data. Unfortunately, none of these skills matter if you do not get the interview. In other words, everything that my colleagues have talked about depends on getting in the door, getting access to your subject. A well-prepared personable researcher who would be able to control an open-ended and wide-ranging interview, while establishing a strong informal rapport with an elite respondent will never get to demonstrate his or her interviewing skills—or ability to decrease measurement error—if the meeting never takes place. Furthermore and fundamentally, systematic error will also be introduced if researchers only get access to certain types of respondents.
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