A Compass Pointing in the Wrong Direction

A Compass Pointing in the Wrong Direction


To read the full research study, CLICK HERE.

Pew seems to think that if you want to know how important it is to people that a presidential candidate be a business executive, a woman, or a Hispanic, you just have to ask.  This survey by Pew Research did exactly that.  The survey gave respondents a list of possible qualities of a presidential candidate and asked how each would impact their likelihood of supporting that candidate.

But if you really want to know what’s important, asking is a lousy way to find out.  People will answer the question and they will even believe their answer.  But people don’t know what’s important in their decision.  They don’t know how much different qualities of candidates influence their choice.

Decisions are made by the non-conscious.  People don’t have access to the process.  When asked what’s important in their decisions, people couldn’t answer accurately if they wanted to.  People don’t know how much a candidate’s being a woman or a business executive affects their choice any more than they know how much the fat in the burger or the smile on the cashier’s face affects their choice of fast food restaurant.

Researchers have long known about the difference between reported importance (what people say is important) and revealed importance (what is shown to actually be related to choice).

It’s possible to find out what you want to know.  But Pew won’t find out by asking.



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