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Web Survey Bibliography

Title Where is Neutral? Using Negativity Biases to Interpret Thermometer Scores
Year 2012
Access date 28.08.2012

This paper draws on work on a negativity bias in political psychology to better understand - and properly interpret - results from thermometer-score rankings in telephone and online surveys. Thermometer scores are used across a wide range of political surveys to capture individual's attitudes towards groups, politicians and parties. A small body of early work shows, however, (a) that respondents do not systematically regard 50 as the neutral point, and (b) that the range across which individuals rank groups, politicians or parties may reflect either the perception that there are only minor differences between them, or individual-level tendencies to use different ranges to reflect the same underlying beliefs. In short, in spite of some existing research on the matter, it is still difficult to know whether a score of 55 is positive or negative, and whether a 10-point difference reflects a large or small difference in perception. This paper suggests that we can get some leverage on these issues by taking into account the non-linear impact of thermometer scores on other variables; in this case, voting decisions. In short, this work capitalizes on the growing body of work in psychology, economics, and political science suggesting that individuals give more weight to negative information than to positive information. It shows that (a) the impact of thermometer scores on voting decisions is nonlinear, (b) those nonlinearities vary across individuals, and (c) those nonlinearities can be used to both identify the neutral point in thermometer score ratings. Results are interpreted both in light of recent work exploring negativity biases in political behavior, and as they relate to the use of thermometer scores in survey research more generally.

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Year of publication2012
Bibliographic typeConferences, workshops, tutorials, presentations

Web survey bibliography - The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) 67th Annual Conference, 2012 (50)