A Study of Social Desirability Bias in the Russian Presidential Elections, 2012
32 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2014 Last revised: 17 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 12, 2014
In authoritarian regimes election polls can be vastly polluted by the measurement error, namely the social desirability bias, which can contribute to substantial inflation in the publicized estimates of the autocrat's electoral support and voter turnout. This study provides an in-depth analysis of the magnitude of the social desirability bias in polling estimates released before and after the most recent Russian presidential elections by focusing on the implications of Noelle-Neumann's "spiral of silence'' theory. The empirical data analysis is based on list experiments from four data samples collected during the Russian presidential campaign. The estimated magnitude of the social desirability bias in Putin's electoral support is statistically significant and reaches approximately 20%, for the voter turnout, however, my findings are somewhat mixed. My main conclusions are further validated by an alternative urns experiment conducted by one of the national pollsters. The detection of significant social desirability bias in the Russian presidential campaign brings forth the issue of survey research quality in authoritarian regimes and its effect on election outcomes.
Keywords: social desirability, electoral ratings, Russian elections, Putin, spiral of silence
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