Inference from Biased Polls
64 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2020 Last revised: 11 Mar 2022
Date Written: March 3, 2022
Poll respondents often attempt to present a positive image by overstating virtuous behaviors. We examine whether people account for this "socially desirable responding" (SDR) when drawing inferences from poll data. In an experiment, we incentivize "predictors" to guess others' choice behaviors across eight actions with varying social desirability. Predictors observe random subsamples of either (i) incentivized choices or (ii) hypothetical claims from polls. The hypothetical claims exhibit predictable SDR and predictors are reasonably skeptical of them. However, their skepticism is not tailored to the direction or magnitude of SDR. This under-correction occurs even though subjects' explicit responses can predict SDR.
Keywords: Polling, Social Desirability, Inference, Signaling, Selection Bias
JEL Classification: D91, D84, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation