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Do Political Attitudes Exist?

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Presentation on theme: "Do Political Attitudes Exist?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Do Political Attitudes Exist?
Receive-Accept-Sample Model By Zhou Yuyang and She Man-Hsuan

2 Part 1 From public attitude to ‘simple theory of the Survey Response: Answering Questions versus Revealing Preferences’

3 Public Attitude As we all know, opinion research need to get public attitude or opinion from public though survey or poll. Virtually all public opinion research proceeds on the assumption that citizens possess reasonably well formed attitudes on major political issues and that surveys are passive measures of these attitudes. The standard view is that when survey respondents say they favor X they are simply describing a preexisting state of feeling favorably toward X.

4 However, in the really world, when people are asked the same question in a series of interviews, their attitude reports are highly changeable. Many, as much evidence also shows, react strongly to the context in which questions are asked, to the order in which options are presented, and to wholly nonsubstantive changes in question wording. It shows on two aspects: response instability and response effects. First, let’s see an instance.

5 Source: National Election Studies, 1980 Panel Survey

6 Response instability The data in Table 1, based on interviews of the same persons six months apart, illustrate the problem. As can be seen from the entries on the main diagonals, only 45% to 55% gave the same answer both times, even though about 30% could have done so by chance alone. So, according to kind of phenomenon, in some thesis ( Converse ), they take any instability as evidence of a "nonattitude," was an extreme claim intended to characterize attitudes only on highly abstract issues.

7 However, can we make sure that political attitude does not exist
However, can we make sure that political attitude does not exist? Or there are some other elements lead to the response instability. Just like Zaller argue in the thesis ‘A Simple Theory of the Survey Response: Answering Questions versus Revealing Preferences’ Here, Zaller argue that the fluctuations that appear in people's overt survey responses are attributed to "measurement error," where such error is said to stem from the inherent difficulty of mapping one's attitudes onto the unavoidably vague language of survey questions.

8 Response Effects Further, not just random response variance (Response instability ) exists, there also exists systematic variance from artifactual “response effects”. For example, in a split-half sample, 37% of respondents were willing to allow communist reporters in the United States. Yet when, in the other half-sample, respondents were first asked whether U.S. reporters should be allowed in Russia (which most favored), the percentage agreeing to allow Russian reporters here doubled to 73%.

9 Thus, the literature on response effects makes it clear that survey questions do not simply measure public opinion. Public opinion researchers largely ignore both the longstanding problem of massive over-time response instability and the newer findings on questionnaire effect. In the case of response effects, the patch-up consists of trying to prevent the problem from becoming conspicuous; in the case of response instability, the patch-up consists of statistical corrections for measurement error. To devise a theory that accommodates both response instability and response effect. Zaller and Feldman in here give us a new alternative model of the survey response.

10 An Alternative Model of the Survey Response
Respondent is in ambivalence - that individuals possess multiple and often conflicting opinions toward important issue. They will give temporally unstable responses in the course of a single conversation. Current attitude models seem quite irrelevant to these observation. Zaller and Feldman persuaded that the basic point about ambivalence represents an important insight.

11 A deductive model based on three axioms:
The ambivalence axiom: "Most people possess opposing considerations on most issues, that is, considerations that might lead them to decide the issue either way." The response axiom: "Individuals answer survey questions by averaging across the considerations that happen to be salient at the moment of response, where salience is determined by the accessibility axiom." The accessibility axiom: "The accessibility of any given consideration depends on a stochastic sampling process, where considerations that have been recently thought about are somewhat more likely to be sampled."

12 Date of the Model Analysis bases on data from the 1987 Pilot Study of the National Election Studies (NES). The study was conducted in two waves a month apart; 457 persons were interviewed in the May wave and 360 in the June wave. All had previously participated in the 1986 National Election Study. The basic method was to ask people a closed-ended policy item and then to ask them to talk in their own words about the issues it raised. The closed-ended items were telephone versions of the standard NES items on job guarantees, aid to blacks, and government services and spending.

13 In form A, respondents were asked the open-ended probes immediately after answering the given closed-ended policy item. ("retrospective" open-ended probe ) In form B, interviewers read the items in the usual way, but, without waiting for an answer, they asked respondents to give their reactions to the principal idea elements in the question. ("prospective" or "stop-and-think" probe) The two types of probes are clearly not equivalent. The “retrospective“ probes, which were posed after people had answered the question in the normal way, were designed to find out what exactly was on people's minds at the moment of response. The "prospective" or "stop-and-think" probes, on the other hand, were designed to induce people to search their memories more carefully than they ordinarily would for pertinent consideration.

14 Respondents were randomly assigned to question form and answered the same type of the question in each wave of the study. The three test items and associated open-ended probes appeared near the end of each wave of the survey. Interviewers wrote down as faithfully as possible all responses to the open-ended probes, including incidental side comments (e.g., "This is a tough one").

15 Tests of the Model Using these date, Zaller and Feldman deduce 17 hypotheses, of which they confirm 16 though their process. Instance: Deduction 1 - People who are, in general, more politically aware have more considerations at the top of their heads and available for use in answering survey questions. Response instability and response effects are also explained by the model in the edduction.


17 Three headings The empirical phenomena for which Zaller and Feldman’s model offers an explanation may be grouped under three general headings, generally explaining all these phenomena. 1. Dependence of attitude reports on probabilistic memory search. 2. Effects of ideas recently made salient. 3. Effects of thought on attitude reports.

18 1. Dependence of attitude reports on probabilistic memory search.
Because attitude reports are based on memory searches that are both probabilistic and incomplete, attitude reports tend to be (1) unstable over time; (2) centered on the mean of the underlying considerations; and (3) correlated with the outcomes of memory searches (Deductions 3-5). This is also why people who are more conflicted in their underlying considerations are more unstable in their closed ended survey responses (Deduction 8).

19 2. Effects of ideas recently made salient.
The notion that individuals' survey responses can be deflected in the direction of ideas made recently salient has been used to explain question order effects, endorsement effects, race-of-interviewer effects, reference group effects, question framing effects, and TV news priming effects (Deductions 9-16).

20 3. Effects of thought on attitude reports.
The notion that thinking about an issue, as gauged by general levels of political awareness, enables people to recall a larger number of considerations and hence to make more reliable responses has been used to explain why more politically aware persons exhibit greater response stability and why the public as a whole is more stable on “doorstep” issues (Deductions 6, 7). It also explains why more politically aware persons, and persons especially concerned about an issue, are able to recall more thoughts relevant to it (Deductions 1, 2). Finally, the notion that greater thought makes attitude reports more reliable has been invoked, with only limited success, to explain the effects of extra thought at the moment of responding to an issue (Deduction 17).

21 Seventeen Deductions 1 People who are, in general, more politically aware have more considerations at the top of their heads and available for use in answering survey questions. 2. People who have greater interest in an issue should have, all else equal, more thoughts about that issue readily accessible in memory than other persons. 3. There should be strong correlations between the ideas at the top of people's minds as they answer survey items and their decisions on the items themselves. 4. There should exist a fair amount of over-time instability in people's attitude reports. 5. Opinions that are subject to repeated measurement should have central tendencies that are stable over time, but should fluctuate around these central tendencies. 6. The attitude reports of politically aware persons should exhibit greater over-time stability than those of less-aware persons.

22 7. People should be more stable in their responses to closed-ended policy items concerning doorstep issues-that is, issues so close to everyday concerns that most people routinely pay some attention to them. 8. Greater ambivalence ought to be associated with higher levels of response instability. 9. Raising new considerations in immediate proximity to a question should affect the answers given by making different considerations salient. 10. People who are ambivalent on an issue should be most affected by manipulations that raise new considerations in immediate proximity to a question about the issue. 11. Inserting the name of a prominent politician or group into a question should affect the public's responses to the question (the "endorsement effect"). 12. The race of an interviewer should at least sometimes affect the responses to questions which he or she asks.

23 13. Manipulations that raise the salience of a reference group can affect responses to questions on which the reference group has a well-known position. 14. News reports can "prime" certain ideas, thereby making them more accessible for use in formulating attitude statements on related subjects (the "priming effect"). 15. Question order can "prime" certain ideas, thereby inducing correlations with proximate related items. 16. Inducing individuals to think about their ideological orientation in close proximity to questions having ideological content can "prime" ideology for use in answering those questions. 17. Inducing people to think more carefully about an issue before stating an opinion should enhance the reliability of the opinion report. (Not confirmed.) Next Part

24 Part 2 From ‘simple theory of the Survey Response: Answering Questions versus Revealing Preferences’ to Receive-Accept-Sample Model

25 Zaller's RAS Model: Receive-Accept-Sample Model
This is a model further developed from Zaller and Feldman 1992. To explain how individuals respond to political information they may encounter. Zaller argues that elite-driven communications influence and constrain public opinion. That effect, however, is mediated by political awareness (does the citizen perceive the elite communications?), which determines the consistency and salience of mass opinion. 

26 This model is consists of four axioms, about how individual respond to political information they may encounter. These four axioms work as a group. This model is based on two phenomena: 1. how citizens learn about matters that are for the most part beyond their immediate experience; 2. how they convert the information they acquire into opinions.

27 In here, Zaller explain some important conception about the model.
First, the consideration: The public forms "considerations" in response to elite discourse (political communications) in the mass media. Often, this discourse consists of multiple, frequently conflicting streams of persuasive messages. In general, the greater an individual's level of political awareness, the more likely she is to receive these messages. Also, the greater a person's level of awareness, the more likely she is to be able, under certain circumstances, to resist (or accept) information that is inconsistent with her basic values or partisanship. If internalized, political considerations become reasons for taking one side rather than the other on a political issue.

28 Second, two types of political messages:
Persuasive messages: arguments or images providing a reason for taking a position or point of view, if accepted by an individual, they become considerations; Cueing messages: carried in elite discourse, consist of “contextual information” about the ideological or partisan implications of persuasive message, enable citizens to perceive relationships between the persuasive message they receive and their political predispositions.

29 Four axioms Reception Axiom The greater the person's level of cognitive engagement with an issue the more likely he or she is to be exposed to and comprehend — in a word, to receive — political messages concerning that issue. Resistance Axiom People tend to resist arguments that are inconsistent with their political predispositions, but they do so only to the extent that they possess the contextual information necessary to perceive a relationship between the message and their predispositions.

30 Accessibility Axiom The more recently a consideration has been called to mind or thought about, the less time it takes to retrieve that consideration or related considerations from memory and bring them to the top of the head for use. Response Axiom Individuals answer survey questions by averaging across the considerations that are immediately salient or accessible to them.

31 Receive-Accept-Sample Model
The “RAS” model your stated opinions reflect considerations that you have received (heard or read about) accepted (if they are consistent with prior beliefs) and sampled from (based on what's salient at the time) The Bucket Analogy Considerations go into your head as if your head were a bucket. When you express an opinion, you reach into the bucket for a sample of considerations; those near the top are more likely to be picked. You then take the average of these considerations, and that's your opinion (at the moment).

32 Further explain on the “response instability” in RAS Model
The existence of widespread ambivalence, in conjunction with the Response Axiom, provides a ready explanation for it. More aware persons will exhibit less chance variability in their survey responses, according to the A1, they are more likely to possess the cueing messages necessary to respond to incoming information in critical manner.

33 Zaller’s analysis of response instability has focused on effect of awareness and issue concern on random response fluctuation. However, if less aware persons exhibit greater chance fluctuation, shouldn’t they also exhibit greater susceptibility to enduring or systematic attitude change? After investigation of attitude stability in the NES panel, which attitude measurements were spaced at two-year intervals. The argument: Awareness had no effect on susceptibility to systematic attitude change. (Zaller, 1986)

34 In RAS model, response variation is rooted in an important substantive phenomenon, namely the common existence of ambivalence in people’s reactions to issues. This ambivalence has numerous implications for such matters as the priming effect of the mass media, the effect of survey question order, and attitude change. The RAS model’s account of response instability is an integral part of much more comprehensive way of thinking about public opinion.

35 Further explain on the “ response effects” in RAS Model
A term that refers to cases in which seemingly irrelevant features of questionnaire design affect the responses given. Considering the example in the Part 1’s “response effects”, it may be readily explained by axiom A3 in this model, which implies that the more recently a consideration has been activated, the more accessible it is for use in answering questions.

36 Response effects were widely considered to be “methodological artifacts” that indicated nothing of theoretical significance about the nature of mass political attitudes, but have always been given substantive interpretations - three effects: 1)Race of interviewer, 2)Reference groups, 3) “priming effects” of television news. These three effects may be counted as additional empirical regularities for which the RAS model, in particular A3 and A4, gives an explanation.

37 Also, RAS model is well suited to explaining priming effects.
It can be used in explaining the case of the Iran-Contra controversy on ratings of Reagan’s job performance. Prior to Iran-Contra, most media messages on Reagan focused on his social welfare policy, which gave people a kind of considerations, as the gatekeeper entering their heads. When the Iran-Contra scandal happened, the former considerations was no longer in people’s head, but the anticommunist or not became a considerations about pro-Reagan or anti-Reagan. Considerations that citizens use in evaluating presidential performance or other types of attitude reports are significantly affected by the way the topic has been framed in elite discourse.

38 Conclusions of the Zaller’s RAS Model
Attitude change (understood as the a change in people's long term response probabilities) results from a change in the mix of ideas to which people are exposed. Changes in the flow of political communication cause attitude change not by producing a sudden conversion experience but by producing gradual changes in the balance of considerations that are present in people's minds and available for answering survey questions.

39 The psychology view of the survey response
Part 3 The psychology view of the survey response

40 File drawer model (Wilson and Hodges 1992,p.38)
Make two main points: 1. Attitudes are preexisting evaluations of some target. 2. They are relatively stable


42 Alternative Paths to an Answer
Three possible alternative sources for answers to attitude questions: a. Impressions or stereotypes When we don’t have a very clear sense about an issue, we may fall back on a general impression about the target or the category to which it belongs. Under these circumstances, our responses to an attitude question may reflect this overall impression. (Sanbonmatsu&Fazio,1990) b. General attitudes or values The public’s the public’s reaction to press coverage of political issue is determined by such predispositions; these involve basic political values, deeper underlying principles. (Zaller;1992)

43 c. Specific beliefs or feeling about the target Open-Ended Material
When the order of the questions raises the salience of some particular domain or incidents, it tends to affect the rating of overall topic. Priming Studies For example: (an initial item and a subsequent item) Abortion and women’s right Abortion and U.S. policy toward Central American Result: The closer the two questions, the more that retrieving considerations for the first question would reduce the time needed to retrieve considerations for the next.

44 The Belief-Sampling Model
They argue that responses to attitude questions can be understood as the outcome of a question- answering process in which people (1) Comprehension (2) Retrieval (3) Judgment (4) Response (Tourangeau et al. 2000).

45 Retrieval: Key assumption of the belief-sampling model is that retrieval yields a haphazard assortment of beliefs, feelings, impressions, general values, and prior judgments about an issue; (cf. Zaller, 1992). Judgment: Under many circumstances, multiple considerations about an issue will come to mind, and the respondent will have to combine them to produce an overall judgment. The output from the judgment component is a simple average of the considerations that are the input to it.

46 J : the output of the judgement component.
In the equation : J : the output of the judgement component. S i : the scale value assigned to a consideration retrieved from long-term memory. n : the number of considerations the respondent take into account.

47 Implications for Response Stability
According to the belief-sampling model, responses to attitude questions are inherently unstable because they are based on a sample of the relevant material, a sample that over represents whatever considerations happen to be accessible when the question is asked. Second source of unreliability is in the values that respondents assign to the considerations.

48 With a few additional assumptions, we can use Judgment Equation to make quantitative predictions about the correlation between responses to the same question over time. The key assumption is that the response actually given to an attitude is a simpler linear transformation of the Judgment described by Equation.

49 According to the model, three key parameters determine the level of the correlation between responses to the same item on two occasions. The first is the reliability of the scaling process, measured by the correlation between the scale values assigned to the same consideration on two occasions.

50 The second parameter that affects the correlation between answers overtime is the degree to which any two considerations retrieved by the same respondent are correlated. The final parameter that affects the correlation between responses over time is the degree of overlap in the sets of considerations taken into account on different occasions.

51 Reliability over two occasions
This Equation shows the expected level of the correlation between responses on two occasions as a function of these three parameters: n1: Number of considerations sampled at time 1 n2: Number of considerations sampled at time 2 ρ1: Consistency in assigning scale values (scaling consistency) ρ2: Homogeniety in pool of considerations(homogeniety) q: Overlap between samples, expressed as proportion of n2(overlap)

52 Conclusions Attitudes is a kind of memory structure that contains existing evaluations, vague impressions, general values, and relevant feelings and beliefs. On any given occasion when we think about an issue, some subset of these contents will come to mind.

53 Thank You!

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