Towards a General Theory of Survey Response: Likert Scales vs. Quadratic Voting for Attitudinal Research

87 University of Chicago Law Review Online 22 (2019)

21 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2019 Last revised: 16 Dec 2020

See all articles by Charlotte Cavaille

Charlotte Cavaille

Harvard University

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Karine Van der Straeten

Ecole Polytechnique, Paris - Laboratoire d'Econometrie

Date Written: January 10, 2019

Abstract

"Likert scales" are the most standard and widespread instrument in survey research when measuring public opinion on political and economic issues. In this simple approach, respondents are given the opportunity to voice their agreement or disagreement on a set of issues by placing their attitudes on a scale that runs from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." One assumption commonly made by social scientists using such scales is that they provide faithful - if noisy - measures of respondents' views. We challenge this assumption, highlighting several reasons why respondents may be expected to systematically exaggerate their views in political surveys using Likert scales. We propose a simple decision-theoretic model of survey answers to discuss whether Quadratic Voting might overcome these pathologies. We provide conditions under which one might expect Quadratic Voting to outperform Likert scales.

Suggested Citation

Cavaille, Charlotte and Chen, Daniel L. and Van der Straeten, Karine, Towards a General Theory of Survey Response: Likert Scales vs. Quadratic Voting for Attitudinal Research (January 10, 2019). 87 University of Chicago Law Review Online 22 (2019), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3307327

Charlotte Cavaille

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Daniel L. Chen (Contact Author)

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

Toulouse School of Economics
1, Esplanade de l'Université
Toulouse, 31080
France

Karine Van der Straeten

Ecole Polytechnique, Paris - Laboratoire d'Econometrie ( email )

1 rue Descartes
Paris, 75005
France

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