December 15, 2000
To the ANES Research Community:
This year's presidential election has turned out to be an especially important one for thinking about the practice of American democracy. ANES will soon be providing data to explore many of the issues raised by the 2000 election. We completed interviews with just over 1800 citizens prior to Election Day, and we expect to remain in the field completing the "post-election" phase of the study through December 21st. The 2000 installment of the ANES includes standard ANES questions on trust and legitimacy, thereby allowing comparisons to earlier, less turbulent and contested settings. We supplemented these standard batteries with a small number of additional questions as the post-election study was going into the field - on the fairness of elections, on satisfaction with democracy, and on the value of voting - to enhance our ability to assess the political consequences of the 2000 election, in each instance choosing questions that can be compared to different times (via earlier Election Studies) or to different places (via the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems).
For those of you interested in the 2000 election itself, the study includes questions on Nader and Buchanan as well as Bush and Gore. There are questions on divided government, environmental politics, and abortion. The study carries a strong battery on religious views and practices. We expanded the political information battery to include items on the religious and regional background of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. We asked about the Clinton legacy (in the pre-election interview for one half of the respondents and in the post-election interview for the other half). And there's more, too much to list in full here. The 2000 questionnaires appear on our website (www.umich.edu/~nes), but we'll say a word here about a few of the things you'll find in the 2000 data.
CORE. As always, the primary content of the 2000 ANES questionnaire involves items tracking long-term time series in political beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. These include measures of attention to the campaign, media exposure, recall of House candidates, ratings of candidates and social groups, likes and dislikes of candidates, registration, turnout, and vote, judgments of the presidential candidates' personal qualities, assessments of presidential performance, emotional reactions to the presidential candidates, nomination of the country's most important problems, participation in the campaign, trust in government and faith in elections, assessment of system support and efficacy items; approval of Representative's performance, retrospective and prospective economic evaluations (of the nation and of the respondent's family), assessment of the U.S. position in the world, party and ideological identification, interest in politics, knowledge of public affairs, opinions on policy, views on equality, race, and the role of government, and the usual workup on social background. All of these measures provide the means to place the 2000 election in context.
SOCIAL TRUST. Over the last decade, research on social trust has exploded. In order to allow ANES to contribute to this research effort, we developed a series of new measures that approach the problem from a new angle. With supplementary funding from the Russell Sage Foundation, we developed measures addressed not to the trustworthiness of people in general, but to the trustworthiness of neighbors and co-workers. Our 2000 Special Topic Pilot Study showed that the new measures gauge trust reliably, that neighborhood and workplace trust are related to but distinct from general social trust, and that they contribute independently to participation in politics. We included these measures in the 2000 NES, again, with support from the Russell Sage Foundation. Together with an expanded set of questions on participation in civic life that are also part of the 2000 study, we expect to see a wide range of exciting new investigations on trust and participation.
VOTER TURNOUT. A particularly vexing problem for ANES has been over-reporting of voter turnout. Over the years we have sponsored a series of investigations trying out possible remedies, without much success. But now it seems that we may have a solution in hand, based on the source monitoring theory of recall. The notion here is that some people may remember having voted sometime in the past but confuse the source of that memory, accidentally misassigning it to the most recent election, when it actually derives from a prior election. We are therefore implementing a new item, with expanded response categories to help respondents be more accurate in determining whether they did in fact vote in November of 2000.
POLITICAL KNOWLEDGE. The 2000 study also sees a slight change in the way political knowledge is measured. In the past, we have encouraged respondents to say they "don't know" the answer to our information questions, partly to avoid embarrassment. But research shows that this differentially encourages "don't know" responses from some people who may actually know the correct answer but lack the confidence to say so. As a consequence, the standard way of putting these questions may underestimate levels of knowledge. In the 2000 study we are therefore encouraging respondents to take their best guesses when answering the political knowledge questions.
COGNITIVE STYLE. The 2000 ANES includes two brief but reliable measures of cognitive style: need for cognition and need to evaluate. The first differentiates among people in the care they give to thinking through problems; the second differentiates among people in their tendency to evaluate objects as good or bad. Both are associated with extensive literatures in psychology, which led to their audition in the 1998 ANES Pilot Study. Because of their success there in clarifying turnout, knowledge about politics, voter decision-making, and more, they were added to the 2000 ANES.
SURVEY MODE. Perhaps the most important single feature of the 2000 ANES is a mode experiment, which supplies the ability to compare interviews taken in person (as we've taken them for the past fifty years) with interviews taken over the phone.
Although we've started to diversify the funding base for NES, the primary source of financial support for the NES remains the National Science Foundation. In recent years, NSF has been reconsidering the level of funding it has provided to its major data projects: NES, but also the General Social Survey and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Until quite recently, NSF support for ANES had remained fairly constant. But in 1998, NSF's grant to ANES was reduced by some 20%. As we write this, the Foundation is reviewing our application for funds for the next cycle of studies. As many of you know, this is an open competition, and there is no guarantee that we will win it. What is guaranteed by NSF guidelines is that whoever receives this next grant will face an additional 50% cut in funding.
Obviously this is a huge reduction. The only way to comply with the new NSF budget ceiling and maintain the 2002 and 2004 studies is to move both studies to the telephone. (We considered alternative technologies, like the internet, but they proved too expensive. We collected estimates from a range of major survey houses that maintain national field staffs and have experience carrying out face-to-face interviews, on the chance that somewhere we could find a survey house with a national field staff and with much lower costs per interview. As it turns out, the major houses - not surprisingly - compete with one another and, thus, have the same costs.)
Telephone interviewing has been under serious consideration for some time now at NES. In 1998, ANES formed an advisory committee, consisting of Norman Bradburn, then of NORC and the University of Chicago, Sidney Verba of Harvard University, J. Merrill Shanks of the University of California, Berkeley, Charles Franklin of the University of Wisconsin, and chaired by Jon Krosnick of Ohio State University. The committee reviewed the existing literature on mode effects and offered several recommendations. The Advisory Committee noted that there are several advantages to telephone interviewing besides the substantial reduction in cost. For example, interviewer supervision is more easily accomplished in a centralized telephone facility than in the field. And RDD sampling overcomes the need for cluster sampling, which concentrates interviewing in densely populated areas. However, the Committee also noted a number of problems associated with telephone interviewing that may pose problems for the ANES. First, it is not possible to administer many of the question formats that have formed the core of the study's time series, because these items require visual display of response choices. Second, there are two threats to representation in a telephone survey. Response rates for telephone surveys are usually substantially lower than response rates for face-to-face surveys. Moreover, there are problems with telephone coverage (that is, in who has a phone in the first place) and in respondents' ability and willingness to use the phone; these problems lead to substantial under-representation of people low in education and income, the elderly, and racial minorities. Third, because respondents are typically more rushed on the telephone, they are less careful in generating answers, yielding more errors of measurement. And fourth, respondents enjoy telephone interviews less than they enjoy face-to-face interviews, raising the possibility that people who are initially interviewed by phone may be less willing to participate in later panels than people initially interviewed face-to-face.
In light of these potential drawbacks, the ANES Advisory Committee recommended that we conduct an experimental comparison of mode. This is just what we are doing. In effect, the 2000 ANES is really two studies, side by side. One continues the tradition of face-to-face interviewing with an area probability sample (pre-election n of just over 1,000). The other involves a simultaneous telephone interview of an RDD sample (pre-election n of just over 800). The questionnaires for these two studies (again, available on our web site) compare best practices in face-to-face interviews with best practices in telephone surveys, and they incorporate experiments specifically designed to test for mode effects.
In short, we are conducting a thorough experiment in 2000 to compare face-to-face and telephone interviewing. Clearly, the face-to-face component of the 2000 ANES will allow comparisons to be drawn between the 2000 presidential election and other post-War presidential elections covered by the ANES series. Moreover, the mode comparison embedded in the 2000 ANES will enable us to reach more definitive conclusions about how a change from face-to-face to phone will affect the ANES. In the meantime, the ANES Principal Investigators are seeking funding outside of NSF to extend the face-to-face, probability area sample design into the future, and we will keep you apprised of those efforts. Our hope is to be able to maintain the ANES series over an ever increasing unfolding of American political history.
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