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Questions - Heart of All Polls - continued

Social acceptability

Questions that could be understood to call for an endorsement of prevailing norms also tend to pressure respondents into particular responses. Given a choice, few people will align themselves with hunger, poverty, ignorance, disease, prejudice, crime, and despotic domination of the world. When people are asked whether they intend to vote in the upcoming election, the inclination is to say yes. When a person admits ahead of time that he or she has no intention of voting it sounds unpatriotic. "Certainly I plan to vote, like all good citizens concerned with exercising their precious democratic rights."

People lie. Polls consistently find a higher percentage planning to vote than actually turn out. In similar fashion, many more people claim to have voted for election winners than losers. To avoid predictable cheers for motherhood and jeers for communism, the surveys need to approach such issues indirectly, using a series of questions designed to probe the respondent's views from several perspectives.

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