Distal order effects in stated preference surveys
Stated preference researchers have previously demonstrated that a good's placement among a sequence of goods in a set of valuation questions (i.e. proximal order effects) can have a substantial impact on people's valuations of these different goods. However, the economic consequences of potential order effects stemming from other questions in a survey, prior to the valuation tasks, have received surprisingly little attention. Using an online climate change survey, we identify order effects created by prior attitude-elicitation questions, and we assess the potential impact of these distal order effects on willingness to pay (WTP) estimates for stylized climate change policies. We find that the order used in prior questions may change people's opinions toward various attributes of the good to be valued, and thereby change WTP by a substantial amount. This paper emphasizes the significance of order effects stemming from preliminary survey questions, and supports a call for diligence in the random ordering of all potentially influential preliminary information in stated preference surveys to minimize inadvertent effects from any single arbitrary ordering.
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