Public Opinion and Voting Behavior

Political Surveys Bias Self-Reported Economic Perceptions

Jack Bailey University of Manchester

Abstract

If voters are to hold governments to account for the state of the economy, they must know how it has changed. Indeed, this is a prerequisite for democratic accountability. Yet the perceptions that voters report often show signs of clear partisan bias. At present, we do not know if this bias is real or instead due to priming in political surveys. To test this, I assign subjects at random to either a political or non-political survey. I then record their economic perceptions and compare the results for each group. I show that political surveys do worsen partisan bias, though only among supporters of the incumbent party. Still, much partisan bias remains unexplained, even in the non-political condition. So, while economic perception items remain biased, we can at least be sure that most people respond to them in a similar way no matter the survey context.

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Associated Replication Materials
Harvard Dataverse repository containing data and R code to replicate the analysis in my paper.

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