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Wiki surveys

- March 30, 2015

Matt Salganik and Karen Levy write:

In the social sciences, there is a longstanding tension between data collection methods that facilitate quantification and those that are open to unanticipated information. . . . we propose a new class of research instruments called wiki surveys. Just as Wikipedia evolves over time based on contributions from participants, we envision an evolving survey driven by contributions from respondents. . . .
Using two proof-of-concept case studies involving our free and open-source website www.allourideas.org, we show that pairwise wiki surveys can yield insights that would be difficult to obtain with other methods.

Salganik and Levy are sociologists but this is important for political surveys too, partly because of the well-known problems of traditional surveys, with their plummeting response rates, and partly because politics is not just about choice between existing options. Some of the most important political decisions are open-ended, and surveys should reflect this. As Salganik and Levy note, purely open-ended surveys have their own problems, and this new design — which allows respondent involvement in a more structured way — seems like a useful step forward.