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Deliberation from Within: Changing One's Mind During an Interview

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Abstract

This article examines whether a public opinion survey can improve the quality of political attitudes. More specifically, we argue that simply positioning a summary attitudinal question after a balanced series of relevant items can increase people's ability to answer in a way that better reflects their underlying interests, values, and predispositions. By manipulating the location of the vote preference question in two separate national election campaign surveys, we find that there are fewer undecided respondents when the question is asked at the end of the survey rather than early on, that some people are changing their mind during the questionnaire, that a larger set of determinants is structuring late-survey vote choice, and that voting preferences based on the later question are a better predictor of the actual vote. The findings carry important lessons for students of deliberation and of citizen decision making.

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