Asking Instruments Make Answers Unreliable

Asking instruments (polls, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and all other types of asking) produce unreliable answers; that is, answers that may, or may not, be accurate. The only way to know if answers are accurate is to check or verify them with data from non-asking sources; for instance, from observations or experiments. Askers/survey researchers do not have this type of data; all they have is unreliable information.

Supporting evidence that asking instruments make answers unreliable is provided by numerous studies demonstrating (1) that asking instruments produce symbolic and unrealistic answers, (2) that each instrument produces different results for the same question, and that they (3) often generate inconsistent or conflicting answers, (4) much nonresponse and, with rare exception, (5) unrepresentative results.

Discussions and further documentation of how asking instruments 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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1 Response to Asking Instruments Make Answers Unreliable

  1. Pingback: Askers Make Answers Unreliable | George Beam's Blog

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