Really superb new piece by Ansolabehere and Hersh in the forthcoming Political Analysis. While the underlying technology is pretty fierce, Steve and Eitan do an excellent job, I think, in making the material accessible. Anyone who has been skeptical about survey self-reports should read the paper–it provides optimism and pessimism on both sides.
From the abstract:
Social scientists rely on surveys to explain political behavior. From consistent overreporting of voter turnout, it is evident that responses on survey items may be unreliable and lead scholars to incorrectly estimate the correlates of participation. Leveraging developments in technology and improvements in public records, we conduct the first-ever fifty-state vote validation. We parse overreporting due to response bias from overreporting due to inaccurate respondents. We find that nonvoters who are politically engaged and equipped with politically relevant resources consistently misreport that they voted. This finding cannot be explained by faulty registration records, which we measure with new indicators of election administration quality. Respondents are found to misreport only on survey items associated with socially desirable outcomes, which we find by validating items beyond voting, like race and party. We show that studies of representation and participation based on survey reports dramatically misestimate the differences between voters and nonvoters.
It’s currently free access at http://pan.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/4/437.abstract