9+ Ways Respondents Make Answers Unreliable

Respondents make answers unreliable—that is, answers that may, or may not, correspond to what’s really going on—because they
1. sometimes lie,
2. often do not have relevant and/or correct information,
3. and because their values and norms affect answers, as do their
4. interests in and
5. sensitivity to question topics. Also,
6. respondent’s memory biases answers,
7. they are not always who they say they are,
8. those dissatisfied (with a product or service) are more likely to respond/give feedback than those satisfied, and there are
9. many other ways respondents make answers unreliable; for example, by improperly marking Likert scales, by not following questionnaire branching instructions, and so on.
Discussions and documentations of these 9+ ways respondents make answers unreliable, as well as a full accounting of all the fatal flaws of survey research, can be found in my book, The Problem with Survey Research.

About George Beam

I'm an educator and author. The perspectives that inform my interpretations of the topics of this blog are behaviorism and system analysis. Specific interests include American politics, socioeconomic issues, survey research, and effects of the Internet and attendant hard- and software. I'm Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration, Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago.
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