Partisan Bias in Surveys

Posted: 28 May 2019

See all articles by John G. Bullock

John G. Bullock

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science

Gabriel Lenz

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

If citizens are to hold politicians accountable for their performance, they probably must have some sense of the relevant facts, such as whether the economy is growing. In surveys, Democrats and Republicans often claim to hold different beliefs about these facts, which raises normative concerns. However, it is not clear that their divergent survey responses reflect actual divergence of beliefs. In this review, we conclude that partisan divergence in survey responses is often not due to sincere, considered differences of belief that fall along party lines—but determining what it due to is difficult. We review the evidence for possible explanations, especially insincere responding and congenial inference. Research in this area is still nascent, and much more will be required before we can speak with precision about the causes of partisan divergence in responses to factual questions.

Suggested Citation

Bullock, John G. and Lenz, Gabriel, Partisan Bias in Surveys (May 2019). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, pp. 325-342, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3394074 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-051117-050904

John G. Bullock (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place (Scott Hall)
Evanston, IL 60201
United States

Gabriel Lenz

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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