Question Wording Makes Answers Unreliable

Question wording makes answers unreliable because words often have different meanings for questioners and answerers.  Moreover, in Maggie Nelson’s words, there’s “no cure” to this problem.  Here’s Nelson writing about sex/gender/transgender/gay/lesbian/straight matters and the meaning of pronouns:

“When making your [Maggie’s lover] butch-buddy film, . . . you and your co-writer, Silas Howard, decided that the butch characters would call each other `he’ and `him,’ but in the outer world of grocery stores and authority figures, people would call them `she’ and `her.’. The point wasn’t that if the outer world were schooled appropriately re: the characters preferred pronouns, everything would be right as rain.  Because if the outsiders call the characters `he,’ it would be a different kind of he.  Words change depending on who speaks them; there is no cure.”

For more information about how question wording skews answers, see The Problem with Survey Research, esp. Part Two and Part Three.

See also my blog posts: “Question Wording Skews Answers” and “Question Wording and Stated Opinions“.

About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
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One Response to Question Wording Makes Answers Unreliable

  1. Pingback: Question Wording, Change in Wording, and Rosa’s Law | George Beam's Blog

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