For It While They Were Against It

Sometimes, people respond in strange ways to survey questions.

For a recent project with Jim Stimson and Elizabeth Coggins, I spent a fair amount of time analyzing data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Here’s a fun nugget from my exploration: a sizable proportion (21 percent) of respondents both support and oppose Obamacare. Simultaneously.

We can speculate wildly about why a fifth of respondents — in a sample that is disproportionately educated and interested in politics! — would give such a puzzling answer.

But in a bigger sense, surveys — as useful as they are — offer highly artificial settings where respondents will give answers. Not attitudes, nor opinions, nor preferences per se — just answers. We should keep that in mind before reading too much into public opinion reports. [cont.]

Brice D. L. Acree, Margin of Error