Cognitive Daily

Political opinion polls are funny things. A recent poll suggests that Americans are much less concerned about global warming than they were a couple years ago. What happened? The science hasn’t changed, and the world isn’t putting out any fewer greenhouse gases.

It seems that respondents must simply be distracted by other things — the economic crisis, perhaps, seems more important now. But when a pollster calls a survey respondent, other distractions are at play as well. There might be a screaming baby in the house. Or perhaps the respondent is missing his favorite TV show and isn’t really thinking about his answers.

We wondered if we could affect poll responses just by modifying the setting in which the poll is taken. We’ve created a couple different versions of the same poll. Some allow you to focus your attention completely on the poll responses, but others ask you to do other tasks at the same time. Will that have any impact on the results? There’s only one way to find out.

Click here to participate

As usual, the study is brief, with about 15 questions. It should take only a few minutes to complete. You have until Thursday, October 29 to complete your response. There is no limit on the number of respondents. Don’t forget to come back next week for the results!

(Just a reminder: All Casual Fridays studies are non-scientific. This doesn’t mean we can’t use scientific principles to assess what’s going on, but we can’t make general claims based on the results)

Comments

  1. #1 fizzchick
    October 23, 2009

    Ack! I can’t do it. I think you need a “how confident are you” question after you ask how many flashes. I stopped counting partway through because I lost track, so then I just guessed.

  2. #2 Jesslyn Littlepage
    October 23, 2009

    Another reason that opinions may have changed over the last couple of years: they’ve had more time to overcome the media hype and decide whether the information is actually something to be concerned about.

  3. #3 CTV
    October 24, 2009

    I didn’t finish the questions, I decided to drop out at the last page instead of posting my result. I really tried, but the flashes stopped long before I could finish even reading the second question on each page, so I felt like I was “cheating” because I was too slow. Some of the questions I didn’t really understand at a glance and had to read really carefully several times before I felt somewhat able to give an answer. Some of the questions would require me to stop to go and look things up, for example I dodn’t know off the top of my head what PG-rated means _exactly_ (some of the questions were slightly US centric too). And those flashes kept breaking my concentration so I constantly had to start over.

    Also, some of the questions probably should have a ‘maybe’ option, particularly the ones asking whether X would make me change my mind. Those really depend on circumstances and details.

    I really think how well people do on this kind of thing depends a lot. I simply can’t do it. I can’t answer questions that quickly. I wonder if anyone can actually answer these questions properly – with enough consideration – in the time before the flashes stop.

  4. #4 Jordi
    October 24, 2009

    I had the same problem as CTV and should probably not have submitted either, but I did. I can’t read very fast, and I can also not read and count the flashes (on another part of the screen) at the same time. Not having English as a native language (and not living in the US for some of the questions) may not have helped either. It may have been possible for me to answer the questions while counting, but it would have been very slow. The flashes did not nearly last long enough for this. They usually stopped when I was midway through struggling with the second question.

  5. #5 The Nerd
    October 24, 2009

    I literally couldn’t take this one – I have ADD. Surely I’m not the only one who was unable to complete it at all. This will probably skew your results.

  6. #6 hanmeng
    October 25, 2009

    For political philosophy, there was no libertarian option. I’ve noted that absence in a lot of surveys.

  7. #7 non e mouse
    October 25, 2009

    What are these flashes that everyone is mentioning? I didn’t see any flashes. Please explain.

  8. #8 Dave Munger
    October 26, 2009

    Some participants had to watch a flashing square as they responded — counting the flashes while answering the questions, to see if dividing their attention had an effect on the results. Others didn’t — we’re going to see if this affects the results.

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