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Surveying the Left-Right Dimension: The Choice of a Response Format

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  • Martin Kroh

Abstract

Although left-right items are a standard tool of public opinion research, there remains some difference of opinion on the optimal response format. Two disputes can be identified in the literature: (a) whether to provide respondents with a small or large number of answer categories and (b) whether or not to administer the response scale including a midpoint. This study evaluates the performance of the 101-, 11- and 10-point left-right scales. These scales not only speak to the two disputed aspects of measuring the left-right dimension but are also common instruments in public opinion research. Drawing on data from a split ballot multitrait multi-method experiment carried out in a methodological pretest to the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the analysis shows that the choice of a response format makes a difference in terms of data quality: The 101- and 10- point scales are plagued by method effects. Moreover, an application from electoral research illustrates that the choice of response formats affects substantive interpretations about the nature of the left-right dimension. Since all three scales perform about equally well in terms of the ease of administration, the findings suggest that the 11-point left-right scale should be used in survey research.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Kroh, 2005. "Surveying the Left-Right Dimension: The Choice of a Response Format," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 491, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp491
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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.43287.de/dp491.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ulf Olsson, 1979. "Maximum likelihood estimation of the polychoric correlation coefficient," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 44(4), pages 443-460, December.
    2. Cees Van Der Eijk, 2001. "Measuring Agreement in Ordered Rating Scales," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 325-341, August.
    3. Annette C. Scherpenzeel & Willem E. Saris, 1997. "The Validity and Reliability of Survey Questions," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 25(3), pages 341-383, February.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:57:y:1963:i:02:p:368-377_24 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Volkens, Andrea, 2002. "Manifesto Coding Instructions (Second Revised Edition)," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Institutions and Social Change FS III 02-201, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:69:y:1975:i:04:p:1218-1231_24 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. N/A, 1970. "Note," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 2(4), pages 1-1, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andos Juhász, 2012. "A Satisfaction-Driven Poverty Indicator: A Bustle around the Poverty Line," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 461, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Martin Kroh, 2006. "An Experimental Evaluation of Popular Well-Being Measures," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 546, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

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