Mark Blumenthal | March 29, 2010
Topics: aquiescence bias , Harris Interactive , Harris Poll , Humphrey Taylor , Markos Moulitsas , Measurement , straightlining , Wingnut poll
My column reviews the criticism of the Harris Interactive "wingnut" survey released last week and suggests some ways to better measure some of the beliefs it tested (taking up the dare issued via Twitter by Markos Moulitsas). Please click through and read it all.
One issue I did not mention in the column, and have not yet seen raised elsewhere, is that the Harris survey asked the questions using a "grid" or "matrix" format, something Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor confirmed via email. That means that the questions and answers were presented in a table (like the examples shown here).
While many online surveys rely on the grid format, it as an critical shortcoming: It makes it easy for respondents who prefer not to think hard about the questions to "straightline"" their answers. As such, this aspect of the design may have increased the potential for the "aquiescence bias" to have increased the percentage who said that some of the statements were true.