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The Reliability of Survey Attitude Measurement

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ABSTRACT Several theoretical hypotheses are developed concerning the relation of question and respondent characteristics to the reliability of survey attitude measurement. To test these hypotheses, reliability is estimated for 96 survey attitude measures using data from five, 3-wave national reinterview surveys-three Michigan Election Panel Surveys and two reinterview studies conducted by the General Social Survey. As hypothesized, a number of attributes of questions are linked to estimated reliability. Attitude questions with more response options tended to have higher reliabilities, although there are some important exceptions. More extensive verbal labeling of numbered response options was found to be associated with higher reliability, but questions explicitly offering a “don't know” alternative were not found to be more reliable. Question characteristics were confounded to an unknown degree with topic differences of questions, which were significantly linked to reliability, leaving the influence of question characteristics on reliability somewhat ambiguous. Characteristics of respondents were also found to be related to levels of reliability. Older respondents and those with less schooling provided the least reliable attitude reports. These results are discussed within a general framework for the consideration of survey errors and their sources. Peer Reviewed http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/68969/2/10.1177_0049124191020001005.pdf

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Available from: Duane F. Alwin, Mar 18, 2015
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    • "Unique variance is comprised of two components, random error and systematic error. Random error may be due to situational factors, the wording and response format of the item (Alwin & Krosnick, 1991) or administration errors (Saris & Andrews, 1991). However, random measurement errors associated with each item are assumed to be independent. "
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    • "Recently there has been renewed interest in the issue of response scales in general and in particular about how people distribute their responses amongst the offered categories (Schwarz, et al., 1991; Alwin and Krosnick, 1991; and Greenleaf, 1992). Of particular interest has been the work of Schwarz, et al. (1991) which shows that people respond to 11-point, numerical scales differently according to the numbering convention used. "
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