Liar, Liar?

Tell the truth: if someone asked you some prying questions, would you lie?

A lot of people contend that's what happens with polls, and this morning Kathleen Frankovic delves into the heart of, well, "truthiness":
(CBS/AP)
There have been campaigns to lie to pollsters. In the early 1980s, Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko told people to do it before the Illinois primary. But when CBS News conducted a short poll in the Chicago area to see whether readers would take his advice, many people said they read the column, and enjoyed what Royko had to say, but also that they wouldn't take his advice seriously. And in fact, that year's primary election poll was quite accurate.

Lying takes more mental effort than telling the truth. Telling one lie usually means you need to tell more lies. It's much easier not to say anything, or just hang up the phone — which might help explain why response rates to polls have dropped over the years. If people take the time to answer a pollster's questions, they usually try to tell the truth!

However, some answers to poll questions may not be lies, but they also may not quite be the truth. They may be the product of faulty recall, or of misremembered memories. Respondents answer the questions they are asked, but if a question requires too much effort, they may do just enough thinking to come up with a reasonable answer. Survey psychologists call this "satisficing." (a combination of "satisfying" and "sufficing").
Wander over and read the rest. Fascinating stuff. Honest.
  • Greg Kandra

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