Can We Improve the Measurement of Attitudes Towards the Welfare State? A Constructive Critique of Survey Instruments with Evidence from Focus Groups

Social Indicators Research, Forthcoming

29 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2009 Last revised: 1 Aug 2011

Achim Goerres

University of Duisburg-Essen - Institute of Political Science

Katrin Prinzen

University of Cologne - Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences

Date Written: August 1, 2011

Abstract

There is a large and growing literature on welfare state attitudes, most of which is built on random-sample population surveys with standardised closed-question items. This article criticises the existing survey instruments, especially those that are used within the International Social Survey Programme, in a novel approach with focus group data from Germany. The article demonstrates: firstly, these instruments underestimate the inconsistency (the degree to which attitudes logically contradict each other), the uncertainty (the degree to which individuals are unsure about what to think), the ambivalence (the simultaneous occurrence of positive and negative reactions) and non-attitudes towards welfare state activities that common people have. Secondly, the meaning of these items to respondents seems to vary to such an extent that inference based on such measures is questionable. Finally, the article concludes by suggesting some survey instruments that alleviate these measurement problems.

Keywords: Welfare State, Attitudes, Focus Groups, Survey Research, Meaurement

Suggested Citation

Goerres, Achim and Prinzen, Katrin, Can We Improve the Measurement of Attitudes Towards the Welfare State? A Constructive Critique of Survey Instruments with Evidence from Focus Groups (August 1, 2011). Social Indicators Research, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1439758

Achim Goerres (Contact Author)

University of Duisburg-Essen - Institute of Political Science ( email )

Lotharstrasse 65
Duisburg, D-47057
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.achimgoerres.de

Katrin Prinzen

University of Cologne - Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences ( email )

Greinstr. 2
Cologne, D-50939
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.fis.uni-koeln.de/prinzen.html

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