Finding Duplicate Panel Respondents
Have we lost touch with reality?

When Voters Lie

This is the title of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.   This is a well-reported piece on a wide variety of topics and it even inlcudes research we have executed for Roger Tourangeau as part of our ongoing work with survey methodologists at ISR.  But arguably the most interesting stuff is a reference to a telephone/mode comparison study done by Harris Interactive that seems to show social desirabilty bias operates on a whole set of issues that many of us might not think of as "sensitive."  For example:

  • 78 percent of phone respondents reported that they brushed their teeth twice a day  compared to 64 percent online.
  • 58 percent of phone respondents says they exercised regularly compared to just 34 percent online.
  • 56 percent of phone respondents claimed that they went to church, synagogue, or mosque most weeks compared to 25 percent online.

Of course, one can't rule out the possiblity of some sample bias here.  Maybe people who sign up to do surveys online are just a lot different from the rest of the population.  But there is enough consistency with other work on social desibaiblity in other modes (inlcuding paper and pencil self-administration) to suggest that the bias introduced in interviewer administration is more substantial than we might sometimes think.