Ambiguity in the Item Wording, Ambiguity in the Respondents’ Comprehension? An Experiment on the ‘Immigrants/Foreign Workers’ Social Distance Item in Values Surveys
Keywords:item wording, immigrants, foreign workers, social distance, European Values Study, World Values Survey
AbstractSince there has been a considerable increase in studies on attitudes toward immigrants in recent years, particular attention must be devoted to the survey instruments used to measure them. Since they first appeared, both the European Values Study and the World Values Study have included a battery of questions to measure social distance, asking which social groups respondents would not be willing to have as neighbors. One of these social groups is ‘immigrants/foreign workers.’ The wording of this item contains a certain degree of ambiguity, as the terms ‘immigrants’ and ‘foreign workers’ refer to two different social groups. Foreign workers are in fact a subcategory of immigrants. Our contribution sets out to assess the working of the item, using a survey experiment randomly assigning respondents three different formulations (‘immigrants/foreign workers’, ‘immigrants,’ and ‘foreign workers’). The data come from the Italian joint edition of the European Values Study-World Values Survey 2017. The results show that Italians perceive a much larger distance toward immigrants than toward foreign workers, which is nevertheless similar to the distance perceived toward ‘immigrants/foreign workers.’ Overall, the empirical evidence suggests the semantic prevalence of the item ‘immigrants’ over ‘foreign workers’ in respondents’ answers. In light of the results, we will discuss their implications for both data users and future values surveys.
How to Cite
Ladini, R., & Biolcati, F. (2022). Ambiguity in the Item Wording, Ambiguity in the Respondents’ Comprehension? An Experiment on the ‘Immigrants/Foreign Workers’ Social Distance Item in Values Surveys . Survey Research Methods, 17(1), 63–74. https://doi.org/10.18148/srm/2023.v17i1.8016
Copyright (c) 2023 Riccardo Ladini, Ferruccio Biolcati
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.