Faculty Director Nora Cate Schaeffer Considers Implications of our “Far from Ordinary Questions” in her Presidential Address

Because of changes due to the pandemic, in June 2020 UWSC’s Faculty Director Nora Cate Schaeffer became the first president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) to give her presidential address from Madison, Wisconsin.  Her address, Far from Ordinary Questions: Task Difficulty, Motivation, and Measurement Practice, urged researchers to consider how our questions are experienced by respondents.  When questions are particularly difficult for some groups in a target population, the comparability of measurement for all units in a population is reduced.  Questions that respondents find difficult or irrelevant may undermine their motivation to take the work of answering seriously.  Some challenges to improving the practice of measurement in surveys arise because — under the constraints of limited time, budget, and staff – we borrow questions, give them authority based on their source, assert that we need to replicate them to make comparisons, and fail to fully examine claims that they have been validated.  Although the constraints are real, these practices limit our ability to take full advantage of advances in research about instrument design to improve the quality of measurement in surveys.  Nora Cate noted that AAPOR presidential addresses so far have given little attention to the experience of respondents and interviewers.  However, examining the way real respondents experience survey questions is key to improving measurement.

You can see the presidential address here:

Nora Cate Schaeffer
June 2020