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Asking About Numbers: Why and How ∗

By Stephen Ansolabehere, Marc Meredith and Erik Snowberg


Survey questions about quantities offer a number of advantages over more common qualitative questions. However, concerns about survey respondents ’ abilities to accurately report numbers have limited the use of quantitative questions. This paper shows quantitative questions are feasible and useful for the study of economic voting. First, survey respondents are capable of accurately assessing familiar economic quantities, such as the price of gas. Second, careful question design—in particular providing respondents with benchmark quantities—can reduce measurement error due to respondents not understanding the scale on which more complex quantities, such as the unemployment rate, are measured. Third, combining quantitative and qualitative questions sheds light on where partisan bias enters economic assessments: in perceiving, judging, or reporting economic quantities

Year: 2012
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