Research to Reduce Over Reporting of Turnout

Political scientists and researchers interested in civic behavior have long recognized that survey respondents often say they voted in the last election when, in fact, they did not. Many attempts have been made to rewrite standard survey questions to encourage respondents to answer accurately. Recent research published in the journal Political Analysis by Michael Hanmer, Antoine Banks, and Ismail White presents an experiment using two new questions to improve survey measures of voter turnout:

Control Question (from the American National Election Studies)—“In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. Which of the following statements best describes you? “

First Experimental Question—“In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. By looking at public records kept by election officials, we can get an accurate report of who actually voted in November, and in previous elections. Of course, these public records do not say who you voted for. Part of our study will involve checking these records against the survey reports. Which of the following statements best describes you?”

Second Experimental Question—“In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. We also sometimes find that people who say they voted actually did not vote. Which of the following statements best describes you?”

All three questions offered the same answer choices: “(1) I did not vote (in the election this November); (2) I thought about voting this time but didn’t; (3) I usually vote but didn’t this time; and (4) I am sure I voted.”

The first experimental question significantly reduced inaccurate responses to 17.2 percent, compared with 24.8 percent for the control question and 20 percent for the second experimental question.

Follow us on Twitter using #electiondata and get the latest data dispatches, research, and news by subscribing today. 

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.