Justin Grimmer (Workshop in Applied Statistics)


Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel Building, room K354 or Online via Zoom

Today's Speaker

Justin Grimmer (Stanford University), "A Statistical Framework to Engage the Problem of Disengaged Survey Respondents"

Zoom link


Researchers in academia, government, and industry increasingly rely upon cheaper online surveys to measure public opinion. However, with their lower cost, online surveys increase the risk of bias from inattentive or disengaged survey respondents entering the sample – a risk that remains even after survey firms and researchers use well-developed filters and attention checks to exclude these disengaged respondents. In this paper, we introduce a statistical framework for surveys with disengaged respondents and tools to address the bias. First, we develop a partial identification approach that clarifies the extent to which relevant estimands can be identified in the presence of disengaged respondents. These bounds apply regardless of how well attention checks uncover disengaged respondents. Second, we show that simply dropping respondents who are flagged as disengaged or inattentive from the analysis can lead to selection bias if the scientific question is about the attitudes or beliefs in a general target population (e.g., adults in the US). To correct for this, we introduce partial and point identification approaches that adjust for this selection bias. We apply our estimators to study the prevalence of extreme anti-democratic attitudes and find that – despite alarming topline results — that the survey data is consistent with there being effectively no respondents who support these views.

The Applied Statistics Workshop (Gov 3009) meets all academic year, Wednesdays, 12pm-1:30pm, in CGIS K354. This workshop is a forum for advanced graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars to present and discuss methodological or empirical work in progress in an interdisciplinary setting. The workshop features a tour of Harvard's statistical innovations and applications with weekly stops in different fields and disciplines and includes occasional presentations by invited speakers.

More information is available at the Gov 3009 website: https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/applied.stats.workshop-gov3009

All interested Harvard affiliates are invited to attend.