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Experiments to Reduce the Overreporting of Voting: A Pipeline to the Truth


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Principal Investigator(s):

Michael J. Hanmer
University of Maryland
Email: mhanmer@umd.edu
Home page: http://www.gvpt.umd.edu/hanmer/

Sample size: 2500
Field period: 9/3/2010-11/22/2010

 

Abstract:

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 or not changes in the wording of the turnout question can induce 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 (survey administrators) know some people who say they voted did not; and 2) that we can in-fact find out, via public records, whether or not they voted. We examine these questions through a survey on U.S. voting age citizens after the 2010 midterm elections. Our evidence suggests that for some, these questions reduced over-reporting of turnout.

Hypotheses:

H1: Telling respondents that we will check their voting records should reduce turnout relative to the control group (receives the standard ANES question).

H2: Telling respondents to think carefully about the truthfulness of their response should reduce turnout relative to the control group (receives the standard ANES question).

Experimental Manipulations:

ANES Turnout Question (Control)
In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. Which of the following statements best describes you?

Actual Pipeline Turnout Question (Treatment 1)
In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. By looking at public records kept by election officials we can get an accurate report of who actually voted in November, and in previous elections. Of course, these public records do not say who you voted for. Part of our study will involve checking these records against the survey reports. Which of the following statements best describes you?

Implicit Turnout Question (Treatment 2)
In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. We also sometimes find that people who say they voted actually did not vote. Which of the following statements best describes you?

All answer choices were as follows:
1. I did not vote (in the election this November)
2. I thought about voting this time but didn’t
3. I usually vote but didn’t this time
4. I am sure I voted

Key Dependent Variables:

Reported voting or not based on questions listed under Experimental manipulations

Validated voting

Summary of Findings:

Both treatments were associated with lower rates of overreporting. The size of the effects varied by individual characteristics.

References:

“Experiments to Reduce the Overreporting of Voting: A Pipeline to the Truth.” Michael J. Hanmer, Antoine J. Banks and Ismail K. White. Poster Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Political Methodology Section of the American Political Science Association, July 28-30, 2011. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.


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