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Essentials of Political Science

jan~esA&.Thurber, A&rnericanUniversity, Ecfitor

The Essentials of Pcllitical Science Series will present faculty and

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Essentials c?fAmericun Gover12ment, I>avid AMcKay



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Monroe, Alan D.
Essentials of politicaI research / AIan 19. Monroe.
p. em - (Essentials of political science)
Includes biograpl~icalreferences and index.
ISBN 0-8 133-6866-V(pbk.1
1. Political science-Research.
2. fjolirical science-Methodology
11. Series.

I. Tide.

The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American
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For Paula, Ill'elissa, and Mollie

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List of Tables izzd Figures


The Scienrific Study of Research Questiians

What Does It Mean to Be Scientific?, 2
Distinguishing Empirical and Normative Questioils, 3
Reformulating Normative Questions as Empiricill, 6
Research Qt~estions,8
The Scietltific Research Process, 10
Exercises, 12
Suggested Answers to Exercises, 23

Building Blocks of the Research Process

Theories, Hypotheses, and Operational
Definitions: An Overview, 2 '7
Types of I-Iypotheses, 19
Theoretical Role, 20
Units of Analysis, 22
Operational Definitions, 25
Exercises, 28
Suggested Answers to Exercises, 29

Research Design

The Concept of Causality, 31

Types af Research Design, 32.
Exercises, 43
Suggested Answers to Exercises, 44

Published Data Sources

The Xnternet as Data Source, 48
The X~nyortanceof Units of Analysis, 48
Strategies for Finding Data Sources, SO
Some Genera1 Data Sources, S2
Demographic Da ta, 52
Political and Governmental Data for Natioils, 54
Data 0x1 U,S, Government and Po!itics, S4
Survey Data, 5'7
Content Analysis, SS
Steps in Content Analysis, S9
lssues in Content Analysis, 44
Exercises, 64
Suggested Answers to Exercises, 65

Survey Research

Sampling, 67
Interviewing, 71
Writing Survey Items, 73
Exercises, 78
Suggested Answers to Exercises, 79

Levels of Measurement, 83
Uilivariate Statistics, 90
The Concept of Relationship, 92
Multivatriate Statistics, 98
Exercises, 180
Suggested Answers to Exescises, 102

Graphic Display af Data

Graphics far Univariate Distributions, 106
Graphics for Muftivariate Relationships, l U7
How Not to Lie with Grapl-rics, 1 OS)
The Need far Standardization, 112
Principles for Good Graphics, 1 13
Exercises, 11S
Suggested Answers to Exercise A, 116

Nominal and Ordinal Statistics

Correlations for No~ninalVariables, 1 1 7

Correlations for Ordinal Variables, 2 20
Chi-Square; A Significance Test, 124
Additional Correlations for Nominal Variables, 130
Interpreting Contingency Tables Using Statistics, 1 33
Exercises, 135
Suggested Answers to Exescises, 136

Interval Statistics

The Regression Line, 1 4 l

Pearson" r, I44
Nonlinear Relationships, 147
Relationships Between Interval and
Nominal Variables, "11
Exercises, 15X
Suggested Answers to Exercises, 153


MuXtivariate Statistics

Coxztrolling with Corztingeliicy Tables, 1 59

What Can Happen When You Control, 160
Controlling with Ilntervali Variables:
Partial Correiations, 167
The Multiple Correlation, 173
Significance Test for R" 176
Beta WeigI~ts,177
Causal Interpretation, 178
Exercises, 186
Suggested Answers to Exescises, 190


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es and Figures


faxnple size and accuracy

1 Common bivsriate statistics

8.1 Probability of chi-square

10.1 ProbahiIity of F for partial and multiple

correlations (0.5 proba lsitiry Ievelj

1 ,1 Stages in the research process

Types of hypotheses and exaxnples

3.1 The classic experiment and an exiil~~ple

3.2 The quasi-experimental design and an example
3.3 The correlatioilal design and examples

faxnple size and accuracy

Popular vote for presidetit, 1996

Popular vote for president, 1996;
Reported voter turnout, by ethnicity, 1996
Reported voter turnout, by ethnicity and
education, 1996
7.5 Turnout of voting-age population in
presidetitial elections, 1960-2 996


7.68 A U S , per pupil speriding on education,

1990-1 996-correctly presented
7.6B U.S, per pupil spending cm education,
1990-1 996-incorrectly presented
'7.7 Percentage af persons below poverty level,
by ethnic status, 1996
7.8 Percentage of persolis below poverty level,

10, I

Example of a curvilinear relationship

Causal rnadefs for three variables and tests
An example of a causai model:
1972 presidential election


This book is intended as a comprehensive text for an introductory

course in research methods for the sr>cial sciences* While written
with students of Political Science in mind, it would be appropriate
for similar disciplines.
The inteiltioil in this book is to concentrate on the essentza:als,
Given the broad scope of this book and its relatively brief length, I
have attexnpted to concentrate on wllat seem to be the most ixnporrailt pr>intsnecessary to understanding the research process, At
the same time, I have attempted to cover those points in sufticie~~t
depth tl-rat the reader will be able to understand them. Therefore, it
has been necessary to dispense with some technical details that a
longer and more advanced text inight include,
In wrltir~gthis book, X have drawn on over twenty-five years of
teaching this subject matter to students of Political Science at Hinois State University, Drafts of the manuscript have been used as a
text for several semesters, and my students have been helpful in
correcting and refining the text, Any errors that =main, hr~wever,
are my respmsibility

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The Scientific Studv of

Research Questions

The reason we have accumulated knowledge of any subjectwhether pl-rysics, philosopl-ry, or political science-is that others
have undertaken systematic investigations of particuiar topics and
reported the results. Brtt why is it important for people who are
nut professionals in those fields, particularly students, to know
about research methi>dology-that is, how research is done? There
are several answers to this question. First of all, students in any
subject spend most of their class time and study tirne Learning
about the results of past research, They can better understand
what those findings mean if they have sorrte familiarity with the
rnethods used to obtain thern. When they ga beyond textbooks
and the classroom, they may have to ~udgewhether a piece of research is valid and whether its results ought to be believed, Second,
students are often asked to do some research on their own-tl-re
dreaded term paper. Although they may be able to get by with just
su~rtmarizirtgwhat others have said, their papers will be more
meaniwful and rewarding if they can actually conduct original investiga tions. In advanced courses-and certainly in graduate
school-this is a x~ecessity.
The need to understand and to be able to use research metl-rods
continues beyond one" formal education. In all sorts of occupations, particularly those into which students from political, science
and related disciplines go, employees are asked to rnake decisions
about the value of research methods and findings, Consultants
often use such methods, and those contracting for their services

should be able to evaluate their reports and findings, Similarly,

people may have to conduct some sort of research project on their
own, such as a swvey of potential clients. Understanding research
methods is useful to all of us beyond tile workplace as well-ffjr
example, as citizens wl-ro rnay be asked to vote on a tax referendum
for a project recommended by a consultant" rreearch findings,
Those who become active in politics, in local government, and in
citizen organizations have a particttfar need to know something
about research methods.
This book is an introduction to the process of research, Jt deals
only with scielztific research, the meaning of whick is discussed
below. Altl-rough the book is designed for students of politics and
therefore uses examples f%omthat field and gives more attention to
the techrliqrres that political scientists use most frequently, the
rnethods are comxnon to all social sciences, including sociology,
econt-jmics, and psychology,

What Does ]It Mean

to Be Scientific?
There are many definitions of science. Perhaps the simplest one
would be an attempt to i d e ~ z b band test erapirictlf gerzemlirntions.
The first key part here is e~npirical.The tenn refers to the facts, or
the real world: that which exists and can he known through the experiences of our senses-what cart be seen, touched, heard, and
smelted. Much of wllat we might believe about things is not empirical, but rather nornative-that is, it reflects our judgments about
what should be, A vitally import'dnt point to understand is that scientific methods cannot deal directly with nonempirical questions;
the next section of this chapter explains how to identify them,
The purpose of the methods and techniques of scie~lceis to test
empirical statements. The testing must be ol2jective, tbat is, its results must not be dependent on any particular researcher's biases,
Under this requirement-which is known by its technical term, intersuhective &s~"al;ilit~~-a
finding cannot be accepted unless it can
be replicated by others. For that reason, political science journals
are increasingly requiring that authors of articles reporting empirical researcl1 make their data available for analysis by otl-rers. Moreover, it: is always important tbat scientific research reports carefully
explain how data were coltected and analyzed.

The Sciefztific Stzady nf Research Qzaestions

The other key part of science is genemlzzation. Scientists seek to

rnake statements about entire classes of ab~ects,not just individual
cases, though the observation must he of individuals. The f ~ t that
Mr, Smith has only a grade school education and does not vote,
whereas MS,Jmes has an advanced degree and always votes, are of
little value by themselves, But when we collect that information on
a large number of people from many places and across time, we
can make a generalization that people with rnore education are
more likely to vote than people with less education.
The main purpose of science is to explain and predict, and scientific explanation requires generalizations. Gonsicter this simple logical syllogisxn:

1. Jf there is a high rate of economic growth, the i n c u ~ ~ b e n t

president is usually reelected. (Generalization)
2 , There was a high rate of growth in 1996, (Observation)
3. Therefore, President Glintt~n,the incumbent, was reelected
in 1996,
This argurnerit is an explanation, thoug;h not the only one, for the
election outcome. Note that the same reason could also be a basis
for a prediclion of who would win the election, assuming that the
econrlmic data were availahfe befcjrehand, The point is chat we
must have generalizations to explain what has happened and to
predict what will happen-and indeed, to understand h<-~w
world works. Tf we have generalizations about many phenomena,
we can put them togetl~ef.into theories, a term defined in the next
The election e x m p l e illustrates another important point, The
generalizations made in the social sciences are almost never absolute. Some presidents runlling in good economic times are defeated. Some people with high leveis education do riot vote, and
some with little schooling vote regularly. Alrlzough generalisations
may not state this probabilistic quality explicitly, it is alrnr>st always implied.

Distinguishing Empirical and

Normative Quesrcions
As noted earlier, science can answer only empirical questions or test
empirical statc;ments. Therefore, it is important to be able to dis-

The Scientific Strcciy o f Research Qzcestions

tinguish empirical statements from other kinds, particularly when

one is selecting a topic for scientific research.
Empirical statements refer to what is or is not true and can be
confirmed or disproved by sense experience. Whether they are simple descriptive statements ("Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996") or
deal with complex relationships ("Controlling for presidential popularity, the greater the increase in average real income, the higher
the proportion of votes received by the incumbent partyn), they are
empirical if objective analysis of data from sensory observation
could potentially prove o r disprove them. It does not matter
whether they are posed as questions o r as statements or if they deal
with the past, present, or future ("Will the Democrats win the next
Normative questions are different. They deal with value judgments, that is, questions of what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable, beautiful o r ugly. Examples could include: "Was Bill
Clinton a good president?" "Should taxes be increased?" "Is democracy the best form of government?" According to the philosophy
of science, these normative questions are fundamentally different
because they cannot be answered objectively. The answers to normative questions depend on the value judgments of the individual
who answers them. Even if we find a normative proposition with
which virtually everyone agrees ("Murder is bad"), it still is normative and not empirically testable.
There is one other classification of questions and statements: analytical. Analytical statements refer to propositions whose validity
is completely dependent on a set of assumptions or definitions
rather than on empirical observation. Mathematics, including classical geometry with its proofs from postulates, is an example of
purely analytical reasoning familiar to most people. Social scientists, particularly economists, sometimes deal with analytical questions as a way of investigating the way things would be if abstract
theories were true. This activity can help to develop empirical
propositions whose testing would shed some light on the applicability of theories. Political scientists have often looked at different
methods of casting and counting votes t o see what the consequences would be under these arrangements.
Box 1.l presents some examples and comments on the rationale
for their classification. Exercise A at the end of the chapter presents
some additional examples for readers to test their understanding.

BOX, 1.1 Empirical, Normaaive, and

Analytical Sentences
1. ""Sxty-two percent of the Arnerican people think the
president is doing a good job." ((Empirical)Although the evaiuaticrrt is obviously normative, the statement is an empirical
one about what value judgments people make, and it can be
empiricaliy tested by surveys,

2, "iMost African Americans vote Republican.'" Empirical j

As it l-rappens, tllis is a false empirical statement, but it is still
empirical and could tested by observatioil,
3. ""Abortion is a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution." "c~rmative) The Supreme Court has in fact
taken this position, but it is still a normative judgment,
4. "is it more impc~rtantto adopt policies that will protect
the environment or policies that will maximize economic
growth?" "ormative) Although the word "ixnportant" is not
necessarily normative, it is used as a value ~udgmenthere, as
the questiolz really asks which policy goal is more desirable,
S. "is it possible for a candidate to be elected president by
the electoral college without havi~zgthe ggreatest n u r ~ b e rof
popular votes?" "nalyticalf This question asks wl~etl-rerit is
possible, so it can he answered simply by looking at the way
the electoral system is set up and constructing a hypothetical
scenario about how it could l-rappen. (It actually has l-rappened several times, hut that is not the point.)
6, "It is better to have nonpartisan elections for local government, because then there would be Iess cc~rruptic>il."
jn'czrmative) Afthough the extent of corruption under a nonpartisan system rnight be an empirical question, the judgment
that llonpartisailship is therefore better is normative,

7. "A democratic political system is one in which government tends to respond to the wishes of tlze citizens." "naiytical) This is simply a definition and dues not require any empirical observation to test it,

Reformulating Normative Questions as Empirical

On learning that scientific study does not attempt to answer normative questions, one might well abject that this excludes many of
the moft interesting and important topics, especiatly in politics. Indeed, this was the basis of much of the objection to the scientific
orientation that became dominant in political science in the 1950s
and 1960s. Afrer all, the political process is largely concerned with
questions about wllat ought to be.
In fact scientific research can deal with normative phenomena, but
it can do so only indirectly as it seeks to answer empirical questitms.
This can be done by taking the normative qtlestions that motivate
our interest and reformulating:them as empirica! questions in one of
two ways. The first m e t h d , which is the easiest, tlzough often not
the most valuable, is to change the frarne of reference. This means
moving from a normative judgment to a question about the nomative ~udgme~its
some persol1 or persms make, We have already seen
an example of this in Box 1.1. Althougfi the question of wlzetizer the
president is doing a good job or not is a normative one, the question
of whether the public thinks his performance is good is an empifical
one, Such refor1nu1ations can be made with any set of individualsthe public, political scientists, or Left-handed civil servants,
Although chm~girrgthe frame of reference may be quite useful ftrr
svrne topics, such as presidential approval ratings, far others tlze results produced would be trivial. Tlze other method of refc~rmularing
normative into empirical questions is to ask empirical questions
about the assumptions bel-rind narrna tive ~udgxnents.
Most normative judgments are based in part on beliefs about
what is empirically true. For instance, many people believe that
democracy is a betcer form of government than dictatorship because they believe that democracies are more stable, are less likely
But are
to start wars, and produce greater econoi~icdevelop~~ent,

The Sciefztific Stzady nf Research Qzaestions

BOX 1.2 Keformda tiag Normative Sentences as

Empirical by the Frame of Reference and En?pirical
Assumptions Meehads
I. Should term limits he adopted far Gongresd (Normative)
Do mtlst political scientists favor term limits? (Frame)VCiould
term limits increase the influence of interest groups on congressional decisionmaking? (Assumptions)

2, Wc3ttld it be a gos~didea to legalize drugs? (Normative)

Do most Arxtcricans favor legalization of drugs? (Frame)
Would legalization of drugs decrease the occurrence of other
crimes? (Assumptions) How tnuch would legalization of:
drugs increase the frequency of addiction? (Assumptions)
3. The United States should csntinue to send troops to the
third world to attempt to restore order. (Normative) Nations
in the European Union favor the U.S. sending of troops in
trtost cases. (Frame) The support of peacekeepiw activities
with U.S. troops generally l-ras not resulted in long-term prevention of disorder in the past. (Assumptions)
4. Strict limits on campaign spending far congressional
elections should be adopted. (Normative) Democrats favor
spending limits more than do Republicatls, (Frame) Spending limits tend ta increase the reelection rate for incumbents.
( Assumptions)
these asslullptio~lscorrect? Scientific investigatiorz trtay be able to
test them, Similarly, most reco~rtmendationsfor public policy
changes are based on. assumptions about wllat the effects of tl-rose
decisioils wilt he, Advocates of a tax decrease may argkle that it will
stimulate the economy; thereby creating lobs and ultimately increasing tax revenue, Whether or not these effects would occur is
an empirical question that economists attempt to answer. Box 1.2
presents some examples of refc3rmulation rrsirlg both methods, and
Exercise B at the end of the chapter offers more,
The assumptions method can be valuable in formulating interesting and important research questions, but its limitations must be

kept in mind, Athctugh empirical reformulation may lead to research that will aid normative decisionmaking, ernpiricai research
can never actually answer a normative question, To use the previous exatrtples, a believer in democracy trtight favor that fonn of
governmetlr even if it were nor more stable, peaceful, or prosperous, and persons with particular economic i n t e ~ s t smay favor or
oppose a tax cut regardless of its overal! effect t m the economy

Research Questions
Scientific research, like any other serious intellect~~af
begins with a question that the research is intended to answer,
Since this starting point will determine the design and conduct of
the inquiry, the formtrlatio~~
of a research question (also called a research problem) is of paramount importance, It is not only prokssional scientists who must articulate a research question, but also
beginners, Mow often do stuclents start with term paper topicsbut not research questions-and assemble stacks of information
and write extetlsive summaries, only to have instructors criticize
the resulting papers for lack of focus? A thoughtfully chosen and
clearly establisi-red researcl-r question can avoid this problem in
both scientific and ntjnscientific inq~iiq.
But what are the elements of a desirable research questioll? This
is ctiffic~1i.r:to answer in the abstract, but several criteria shoufd be
kept in mind in choosing a topic and Eormulating a scientific re,
from siinply
search question. The first criterion is c l ~ r i t y Aside
being comprehensible in t l ~ eusual sense, this means that a question
must be specific enough to give direction to the research, and general enough that it suggests what a possible answer would be. For
instance, the question "Wl-ry is voter turnout low in the United
States?" "ves no direction as to whether we should look at citizen
attitudes, election laws, or any number of other possible factors. A
inore useful version would be "Is voter ttlmout reduced by political aiieilation?'\or, even better, "Does the use of election day voter
registration increase turnout?'Yimilarly3 a question such as ""Wow
can poverty in less-developed nations be rernedied?'+ould be improved by asking, "Does foreign investment result in long-term increases in the standard of living?'"
Although research questions require specificiry for clarity, limiting their scope in time or place is neither necessary nor generalily
desirable, To restrict the e h v e examples to particular cities or elec-

The Sciefztific Stzady nf Research Qzaestions

tions in the case of voter turnom, or a single n a t i o ~in~ the case ~f

economic development, would reduce the theoretical significance
and practical relevance of the findil-rgs (these two criteria are discussed beiowf. Although a given research project may weil be confined to a single time or place as a practical maccer, it is the more
general question that science seeks to answer.
The second criterion is testiabilifiu, and it is an absolute requirement. The research question must be one that can be potentially
answered by empirical inquiry, First of all, it must be an empirical question, not a normative question; two methods for reformulating a normative question as an empirical one have already
been presented. A second consideration is whether the necessary
investigation can be devised and carried out with the resources
available. Researching questiorls about attitudes of voters in presidential elections may require condt~ctingnational surveys, wl-rich
is a costly enterprise beyond the budget of even professional political scientists, Brit those who lack this abilith including undergraduate students, may still pursue such questions by rnaking use
of surveys conducted by others or by conducting surveys of limited popuiations.
Anotlzer criterion is theoreticill siglzifiunce, Answering the question should potentially increase our general knowledge and understanding of the topic, Evaluating a potential research question
therefore requires finding out what past research findings exist or,
at least, what others have geilerally ass~lmedto be true. Although
political scientists map not have corzducted much theorizing on a
given subject, researchers in orher fields may have developed theories that can be applied. Wc~rkingfrom existing theories or past research does not mean that the irlvestigator necessarity believes
tkexn to be correct. Indeed, tl-re suspicion that existing explanations
are fundamentally inaccurate or no longer applicable in a changing
world is often a major motivation h r research. But whether the research proves tlze past suppositions to be right or wrong, its significance would greater than if the question came only from the researcher" iimagination, because it represents building on previous
A similar criterion is practiat relevance, Answering the research
question should be useful in some real-life application. This is particularly true for questions dealing with causes of social yroblerns
and their possible solutions ('"E-iave time limits on eligibility for
welfare payments increased employment rates among past recipi-

ents?'". Athough there is a commtrn tendency to think of theoretical significance and practical relevance as opposing qualities, the
strongest research questions have some of both. The point is that
there should be some poteritial value in answering a research question-eitlzer it should increase our general knowledge of tlze world,
or it should help in accomplishing sc~methingsomeone wants to do,
If neither is true, then why pursue that topic?
A final criterion is orzgiinulity. This does not mean that a research question must he completely new, but it does meall that
the answer should riot be so weif established that there is fittie
reason to expect a different outcome. For example, the generalization that people with mare education have a higher voter
turnout rate than people with Iess education is so well estahlished-in the United States and in the world in generai-that
pursuing it as a research topic would not be a wise use of resources, even for an undergraduate student, Howewr, there may
well be refatc;d questions-such as why contemporary college students have low rates of political participation, or conditions
under which members of ethnic minorities with limited education
become activists-that wt>rrld be more promising,
Thus there are five criteria to keep in mind in selecting a question for scientific research. It shouId be clear and reasonably specific. Xt must be empirical to be -&file, and it must be a q~zestion
that can be investigated given available resources. Xr slzouid have
some degree of either theoretical skrtificitnce or pmclical r e k uance, and prefcrahly both, Finally, it should have sorr.le degree of
oriXinality, Box 1.3 presents several exarllples of passible research
questions, their strengths and weaknesses, and ways in which
they might be strengthened.. Exercise C at the end of the chapter
does the same.

The Scientific Research Process

Figure 2 . 1 presents an oudine of the entire research process, each
stage of which will be covered in this book. As discussed earlier,
we rnust always start with, a survey of past research and tlzeorizing
on a topic. Then one or more =search questions that meet the five
criteria can be formulated. From there, keeping in inincl what was already known, hypotheses are developed (Chapter 2). Then we prepare a research design that could test those hypotheses (Chapter 3).

The Sciefztific Stzady nf Research Qzaestions


BOX 1.3 Evaluating and Improving

Research Questions

I. Question: "How has Axnerican politics changed since the

1994 elections?'" This question is extremely vague, and so it
does not meet the criterion of clarity, ff it were improved in
spccificity-for example, ""Has congessional voting been rnore
along party lines since 154943'"then
it would be much clearer
and reaclily testable. Moreover, it would have some degree of
significance, since the extent of party regularity in legislatures
is a variable that politicai scientists have long studied, and it
would have practical relevance for those who seek to influence
public policy
2 , Questioil: ""Slould the United States give military aid to
Bolivia next year?'This question is obviously normative and
therefore nut testable. Additionally, it deals with only a single
case, and therefore would be low in significance. It could be
transformed by using the a s s u ~ ~ p t i o nmethod
and further
strengtlzened by posing it rnore generally, Improved: "Does receiving military aid cause less-developed nations to increase or
decrease their spending on health and education""
3. Question: "'Do the spouses of U.S. senators tend to have
higher levels of education than the spouses of U,S, representatives?" This question is clear, easily testable, and probably
original. However, it is completely lacking in any theoretical
significance or practical relevance,

Next, we collect the necessary data (Ct~apters4 and 5 ) . Since

empirical researchers in the social sciences typically collect large
amourlts of infrirmation, swtistical artalysis usually is needed to
evaluate it (Chapters Q, 8, 9, and 10). Finally, we draw our concltlsions and present them in a research report (infornation on presexitir-rgfindings graphicall y appears in Chapter 7). These findings
then add to the body of existing knowledge and may lead us or
others to raise new research questions.

FIGURE-,1.1 Stages in thc rcscarcf~process

Formullate research questions


Formulare hypotheses


Research design


llata collection

Data analysis


Draw conctuslons

Suggested answers to these exercises appear at the end. It is
strongly suggested that the reader attempt to complete the exercises
before iookiag at the answers. Note that on Exercises B and C the
answers provided are only suggestions, as the problerns could be
answered well in a number of ways,

Identify each of the following as empirical, normative, or analyticrtl.

1, If a fareign palicy decision would increase U,f, exports,
then that's what should be done.
2. Ptltting courtrooEE trials o n television distorts the ~udicial
pracess and defeats justice,
3, Why do commui~istand socialist nations have lower
irrcsmes than capitalist nations?
4, Allowing people to carry concealed weapons lowers the
crime rate.
5. If guns are outlawed, only oudaws wili have guns.
B, The current practice of campaign fund-raising is corrupting
the character of American democracy,
7. PeopIe who think that potiticiarrs are dishonest are less
likely to vote than those who trust government,
8, 1s affirmative action an unconstitutional form of reverse

The Sciefztific Stzady of Research Qzaestions

f .?

9. Political parties have fulfilled a majority of their platform

promises over the years,
10. Is political instability related to political change?

Each of the following sentences is normative. Reformulate them

using the empirical assumptions method.
1. Should the United States increase the axnount of foreign aid
it gives to poor natioils!
2. Would we be better off i f Congress and the presidency were
controlled by the same political party!
3. Since poor education is the biggest problem facing the nation, spending for schools should be increased.
4. Negative ca~llpaigltadvertising is what's wrong with elections today,
5. Do we need a new political parry in this country to represent middle-of-the-road views Z

Following are some pote~ltialresearch questions, Evaluate each on
the critetria of clarity, testability, theoretical significance, practical
relevance, and originality ff there are serious weaknesses, suggest
an improved version,

I . How democratic is the U S , political sysrern?

2. Who shot President Kennedy?
3. Do appointed judges make fairer decisions than elected
judges do?
4. Which member of the U.S. House had the poorest attendance record oil rotf calf votir-zg in the last session?
5. Are votersVecl.isions in recelit presidential elections influenced more by their attitudes on abortim or by their perceptions of the economic situation?

Suggested Answers to Exercises

I . Normative
2. Normative

3. Empirical
4. Ernpirical
S. Analytical
C;. Normative
'7. Empirical
8, Normative
9. Empirical
10, Analytical
1. Is tl-re amount of U.S. econornic aid received by a nation reIated to subsequent grawtk in per capita income?
2 , Are federal budget deficits greater in years of unified party
control than in years of divided control?
3. Do students in scl-rool. districts that spend mare on public
education have higher test scores after the average education and income of parents in those districts are taken into
4. Was the hequency of negative advertising greater in the
1990s than in the 198QsZ
S. Would a new political party with an ideologically centrist
pc-~sitionon most issues receive more than 20 percent of
the votes?
1. The problem here is a lack af clarity, as tl-re term democracy
is used in rnany ways and each has many aspects. Xf made
more specific, the question certainly could have considerable theoretical sigt~ificanceandlor practical relevance, for
example, 'Wow much of the time are the policy decisions
of the U.S. government in agreement with the preferences
of a inajority of the people?'"
2. The yuescion is clear and specific, and its mswer could conceivably have some practical relevance. But it is not Likely
to be testable, and it is definitively unoriginal. Xn addition,
it lacks theoretical significance, as it deals with only a single event. Improved: ""Dopolitical assassinations in modern Jexrlocracies lead to changes in the governing political
party Z"
3. The problem here is that fairness is a normative concept, so
the question nut testable. Xf some empirical measure were

The Sciefztific Stzady nf Research Qzaestions


subsrituted, then the q~zestioncould be testable, sigz~ificant, and relevant, for example, ""Are elected judges mare
likely than appointed judges to render verdicts favoring
the del'enbant in crirninail cases?"
4, This is a clear question that could easily be tested, but it
lacks any theoretical significance and has little practical
relevance, Improved: 'Wms a representative's attendance
record affect his or her chances of reelectic~n?"
S. This is a reaso~lablyclear and testable question that has
considerable theoretical significance for our knowledge of
voting behavior and same practical relevance for contemporary politics. Although it is not coxnpletely original, the
question is still of interest, as the answer is not completely
clear and it r~eedsto be reinvestigated fc~reach new election, Therefore, nu improvement is needed.

This page intentionally left blank

ding Blocks o f the

Research Process

This chapter presents a number of different concepts involved in

the research process. The goal here is not to teach terminology but
to help you keep these ideas straight as you work with them, The
concepts discussed in tl-ris chapter constit~~te
tlze very heart of social
science research, and familiarity with them is not only helpful in
understanding how others conduct research but also viral to being
able to do it yourself. AIthough tlzese concepts might seem very abstract at first, by the end of the chapter you shouid be able to apply
some of them to specific examples yourself.

Theories, Hypotheses,
and Operational Definitions:
An Overview
One of tlze difticulties in simply describing these building blocks of
researcfi is that science operates at several levels. Box 2.1 contains a
diagram of these levels with two examples. Science starts and ends
with theories, Although, the term theor;\! is used in wide variety of
ways, it could be defined as a set of empirinll gcmemEixatiuns abuzgt
a t q i c , A theory consists of very general statements about hr>w some
phenomenon, such as voting decisions, ect~nomicdevelopments, or
outbreaks of war, mcurs, But tlzearies are too general to test directly
because they make statemetlts about the relatioilship between abstract
concepts-sttch as economic development and political alienation-

R~ildlfzgR Locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess


BOX 2.2

An Overview of the Levels o f Research

THEORY: Concept 1 is related to Concept 2,
HYPOTHESES: Variable 1 is related tc-,Variable 2.
OPERATIONAL: Operational Definition l is related tct
Operational Definition 2,

THEORY: Econo~nicdeveioprnerit is related to political
HYPOTHESES: The mare industriafized a nation, the
greater tl-re level al mass political participation,
OPERATIONAL: The higher the percentage of the labor
force engaged in manufacturing, according to the
U~2tel-lNations Yearbook, the higher the
percentage of the population of voting age that
participated in the most recent national election,
according the StatkrstnanUearbook.

THEORY: S~cioecoliomicstatus affects political particiption.
HYPOTHESES: The higher a person" incorne, the rnore
likely he or she is to vote.
OPERATIONAL: The higher a survey respondent" answer
when he or she is asked, "Wfiat is your household" ailnual income," the more likely that
person wili ailswer "Yes" when asked, ""Did you
vote in the election fast November?'"

that are co~nptexand not directly observable. To actually investigate the empirical apglicabitity of a theory, it inust be brought
down to more specific terrns,
This is done by testing h3~12otheses.A hypothesis is simply an empirical statemertt derived from a theory, The logic linking the two

is that if a genera1 theory is correct, then the more specific hypothesis derived from it ought to be true, Moreover, if the hypothesis is
confirmed by empirical observation, then our confidence in the
general theory is inrreased. However, if a hypothesis is not confirmed, we must question the validity of the theory Gorn which it
was derived. Hypotheses are also related to our research questions,
which were discussed in the yrevic>uschapter. Hypotheses are those
answers to our research questions that seem to be the most pramising on the basis of theory and past research,
Hypotheses are statements about v~rzables.A variable is an empirica/ proper9 that ca,z take on two or more differerzt vai~es.As
the examples in Box 2.1 illttstrate, hypatlleses are much more specific than theoretical statements. But even variables are not specific
enough lor observatitrn, Each variable in a hypothesis must have an
operatio~laldlz(init-lo~,that is, la set of directions as t o how the variabkr is to be observed and measzdred. Constructing operatioilal deflnitiolls is a vital part of the research process and is discussed later
in this chapter,
The stages illustrated in Box 2.1 show hr>w we move from very
gerieral theoretical propositions down to specific instructions about
how to measure variables, whether by looking on a particular column in a reference book or asking a specific question in a survey

Types of Hypotheses
Hypotheses rnake staternents about variables. These statements
can take a variery of fcrrms, as shown in Figure 2.1. If the hypothesis makes a statement about only one property or variable,
then it is referred to as a lilrszvarkte hypothesis. h rtzuitirrarilate
hypothesz's rna kes a statement about l-row two or rnore variables
are related.
Most scieritific hypotheses are mrritivariate as well as directional, that is, they specify not just that the variables are related
to one another but also what the direction of the relationship is,
In a positive or direct relationship between two variables, as one
variable rises, the other tends to rise; for exaxnple, ""The rnore education one has, the greater one% income," h1 negative or inverse
relationships, the opposite ~ c c u r s ,that is, as one variable rises,
tile other tends to fall; for example, ""Tbe wealthier a nation, the
lower its Level of illiteracy," h ~nrzorni~ni
relationships, the hypothesis does predict the direction, but one or both of the variabtes are

R~ildlfzgR locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess


FICiliRi-, 2.1 Types of hyporl~esesand exampies

Hypo $heses



Turnout was 49%

Getlcter is n ~ refaced
to turnout,


Agc is retated to

tQ turnout,

The higher
one's sinco~ne,
the higher the

Thc rnorc alienated,
the tower the turnout,

Catholics have
higher turnout
than Protestants.

such that they can.tlot be described in quantitative terms. An example of such a oofrtinal reiatic~nshipwould be ""Catholics are
rnore likely t l ~ a n13ratestants to vote Republican."

Theoretical RaXe
Trr mtlst mltivariate hypotheses, each variable takes on a particu-

lar theoretical role; the presumed causal relaionship between the

variables is specified. Causality is discussed in greater detail in
Chapter 3, but here an introduction to the concept is needed.
Iadepe~zdentvauicables are those presumed in the theory underlying the hypothesis to be the caz.lse and dependent variablles are the
effects or consequences, Although this distil~ctionis sometimes diffmft to make, in trtost hypotheses it is apparent, The statement
may include explicit language to that effect-for
"causes," ""ads to," or "resutrs in." h other instances, the substantive nature of the variables permits only one direction, For instance, if we hypothesize a relationship between a person" gender
and his or her a~itudes,it is cr~nceivableonly that gender is the inde(Which
peiident variable and attitude is the d e p e n d e ~ ~

gerider you are might intluencr: your thoughts, but it is n ~ passible

for your thoughts to affect your gender,)
Often the nature of the relationship lies in the timing between
variables. Gender and race, for example, are determined before
birth, As a practicai matter, most social characteristics of individuals, such as education, reiigion, and region of residence, are usually
determined early in life. In contrast, aspects of political behavior,
such as voting decisions and opinions, are subject to alteration with
the passage of time. Hence we usually presume that the stjciai factors are independent variables and tlze behaviors are dependent
variables. Similarly, if we hypothesize a relatit3nship betweell dernographic attributes (econoxnic development, urbanization, and
the like) of geographic or political units (e.g., nations, states, or
cities) on the one hand, and their behaviors (e.g., policies they
adopt) on the other, then the dexnographics would probably be the
independent variables. Ifitimateiy the decision as to which are the
independent and whii-h the dependent variables is based on our
theoretical tznderstanding of the phenomena in question,
Tlze control variable takes on a third theoretical role. Control
variables are additiurral! vwkbles that mkhr affect the relationship between the independ~ntand dependent variables, When
control variables are used, the intent is to ensLtre that their effects are excluded-that is, to ensure that it is not these variables that are in fact responsible for the variations observed in
the depellderrt variable. Control variahies in a hypotbesis are aiways expiicitly fabeled as such, ~zsuaflywith the terms cauttrolling Jar or holding constant.
Control variables can go a Iollg way toward clarifying relationships between variables. It can be al! too easy, when we find that
two variables are related and we look no further, to conclude that
one caused the other. But we must always he alert to the possibility
that other hctors rr.lay be involved. 7%)take a well-know example,
African Americans l-rave lower rates of voter turnout than do
whites. Otle might readily condude that race is somehow the cause
of h w e r turnout and advance explarxations based cm racial discrixnination in voter registration or cultural Qifkrences in politicai
attitudes, Yet, as a number of studies have shown, if we statistically
control for other characteristics such as education, economic status, and region of' residence, the difference largely or even entirely
disappears, In other words, if: we compare Afi.ican Americans and
whites who have the same Xevel of education and inco~neand live


R~ildlfzgR Locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess

in the same part of the courltry3each is as iikely as the other to vote

(WoIfinger and Rosenstone, 1980, 90-91 j. This would lead us to
conclude that the main reasons for racial disparity in voter turnout
are these de~rtograghicfactors; certainly, any investigation of
turnout should control for tbexn.
Box 2.2 presents several examples of hypothaes, identifying the
variables and their roles, Note that although most multivariate hypotheses l-rave only one independent and one dependent variable, it
is possible to have more than one of each. Bttx 2.2 also identifies
the anit ofn~czlysisimplied in the hypothesis, a collceyt discussed
in the next section, Exercise A provides additional examples.

Units o f Analysis
As mentioned earlier, variables are empirical. properties, hut of
what arc they properties? The answer is the unit c>f analysis in the
hypothesis, that is, the olrjects that the hypothesis describes. Jn
rnany hypotl-reses the unit of analysis is explicit, If we say that
people with one characteristic also tend tc-,have another characteristic, then the unit is the individual person. Tf the hypothesis says
that some types of nations are higher in some factor than otlzers,
then natioils are the unit of analysis,
Sometimes the unit of analysis in a hypothesis is not so obvious.
Indeed, there may be a choice, If the hypothesis is simply that "income is related to voter turnout," the unit of analysis could he individuais, or it could be groups of people, such as the populations
of states or cities, for both individuals and groups have both incomes and voting, thc~ughin the case of groups it would he totals
OF averages. The choice of which unit to use in testing a hypothesis
is extrexnely important, In the example just given, the relationship
between income and turnom may he very different, depending on
which unit of analysis is used.
One of the major pitfaits that can occur if the wrong choice of
unit of analysis is made is committing the ecologictzt fallacy: ermrrecr~sEydrawing conchsiorrs about irrdividu~lsfrom J ~ t ao t z
grozfps. "fhis error is well illustrated in a paper subxnitted by a student in a poiitical scieizce class at Illinois State tlniversity, The student collected data on counties in the Southern states for a xlumber
of variables and coxnputed correlations for all the variables. One of
his findings was a strong positive relationship between the proportion of a co~zntg'spoyuiation that was African Arrterican and

BOX 2.2 Examples of Hypotheses,

Identifying Independent, Dependent, and Control
Variables and the Unit of Analysis
1, Urban areas have lower crime rates than rural areas.
Independent variable: Urbanization
Dependent variable: Grime rates
Unit of analysis: Geographic areas, such as states or

2. Wirh age held constant, edttcation and political particip"rion are po&tivety =lated.
Independen t variable: Education
Dependent variable: Political parcicipatian
Cotltrol variable: Age
Unit of analysis: Individuals

3. The more negative the advertising in a U.S. senatorial

campaign, the lower the voter turnout rate.
Independent variable: Negativity of campaign
Dependent variable: Turnort~rate
Unit of analysis: U.f, states

4. With GNP hefd ci>nstant, communist nations spend inore

tltan capitaiist nations for the military.
Independeslt variable: Tiipecof economic system
Deperidexit variable: Military sgeriding
Control varia blie: GNP
Unit vf analysis: Nations
S. 'The better the stare of the economy, the greater the
proportion of votes received by the party of the
Independent variable: State of the economy
Dependent variable: Proportion of votes for incumbent
Unit of analysis: Elections


R~ildlfzgR Locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess

6. Controlling for political party, a legisiator" vvotes

on abortion are related to his or her religion and
Independent variable: Religion, Education
Dependent variable: Votes on abortion
Control variable: Po!itical Party
Unit of analysis: Legislators

the proportion of the vote in the 1968 presidential election that

was received by Ceorge Wallace, the American Illdependent Party
candidate, The student conclrtded that it was African Americans
who voted for wailace-an axnaaing finding since wallace was a
well-known segregationist who opposed civil rights legislation,
This conclusion also contradicted the surveys of the time, in which
almost no minorities reported voting for \Vallace,
This strange outcome was a result of the ecological fallacy,
The studexlt" data and statistics were correct; indeed, others
have found that areas in the South with higher nonwlaite papulations voted more for Wallace, His error l a y in drawing cunclusions about which individuals cast which votes. Tt may be
that 30 percent of a county was African Axnerican and that 30
percent of the vote went to a particular candidate, hut this tells
us wtfiing about how African Americans voted, This example
& m i d serve t a rernind us of: the ixnportance of using the appropriate unit of analysis f>r testing hypotheses and drawing
conclusit>ns. Committing the ecological fallacy trtay s f t m be
texnpting, because data on groups, such as populations of geographic areas, are much easier to obtain from published sources
than data on individuals, which usually must come from surveys, Tlae best way to avaid the problem is t a draw conclusions
only about the units of analysis for which the data were actually collected. Xf the data coxlcern states, draw collclusions only
about states. The decision about the appropriate unit af analysis becomes crucial at the next step of the research process, in
which we construct operational definitiom.

Operational Definitions
Testing hypotheses requires p ~ c i s eoperational definitions specifying just how each variable will he measured, Operational defirtitions are a cruciai part of the research process, Xf a variable cannot
he operationally defined, it cannot be measured, the hypothesis
cannot he tested, and the researcl1 question may have to be modified or even abandoned entirely, You will be better able to construct operationai definitions after learning the material in later
chapters, particularly Chapters 4 and 5, hut the 1natc;rial here is
critical to geteing started.
Operational definitions have alrrtost nothing in common with the
definitions one finds in a dictionary. Whereas a dictionary might
say that "race" refers to ""anyof the major biological divisiolls of
mankind, distinguished by color of texture and hair, color of skin
and eyes, etc.," an operational definition could be '%ask survey respondents whether they csnsider themselves to be African American, White, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American, or
other," Or, if the unit of analysis were a state, the operational definition might he ""the percentage of the population that is nonwhite,
according to the U.S. census of 1990."
As suggested in the previous section, the unit of analysis will
often determi~lehow a variable is operationalizcd, so it is necessary first to determine wl-rat the appropriate unit is for the hypothesis, Often the unit of analysis will he individuals, that is,
people for whom data are available on each of our variables, so
that we wiif eventually be able to compare the frequency with
which individuals who have one characteristic also have ailc~ther,
Data on population groups, such as census figures and voting totals for cities and states, will not suffice. On the other band, if our
units are population groups, or aggregates, then those g r o w data
would he appropriate. A fundamental principle to be remembered
is cllac all variLzbles in a hypothesirs must be operatiorsnlked firr
the same zhnit of nnaIysis.
Afler the unit of analysis has been selectc;d, constructing an s p erattional definition has two requirements, It must specify prer w a ~and
t whew (or h o d we wit/ get it. In the excisely ~ h a we
ample of race for individuals used above, what we want is to
know which ethnic group each person identifies with, and how
we will get it is through a survey. If the same hypothesis concerned states, then what we would want for race woutd be the


R~ildlfzgR Locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess

proportion of the population that is nonwhite, and where we

would get it could be the U,S. Bureau of the Census,
As this example stlggests, two units of analysis are very common in political science, and each has a typical type of data
source, 11 the unit of analysis is the individual, meaning people in
general, then the source us~talfymust be a survey, for tl~ereare
very few pieces of politically relevant information about ordinary people tkat can be obtained in other ways. The methodology of surveys will be presented in Chapter 5. Elowever, if the
"iindividual" is a special type of person, such as the holder of a
government office, then many other variables are readily available. For example, for mexnbers of Congress, persmal history
data, campaigr.1 contributic->nsand spending, and votes on legislntive issues are a rr.latter of public record. ""lndividrrals'hs a unit
of analysis can also be insticutians, sucl-r as interest groups, corporations, and political parties; often sources may be found of
infclrmation already collectd on them, though surveys of institutions may aXso be necessary,
Data sources for geclgraphic population groups and governments at ail levels are discussed in Chapter 4, An astonishing variety of information is collected by governments across the world
as well as by other agencies. Ehwever, one prillciple to keep in
mind when constructing operational definitions using data on
This means
groups is that the data usually must be st.r;l;r"td~rdz'x~d~
that it should be measured in a way that makes comparison of
different cases meaningful, usually by standardizing to the population. Unstandardized xneasures usually reflect tl-re total size of
the population group more than anything else. Thus if the variable is ''how Democratic a state voted," the appropriate rr.leasure
would be the percentage of the vote tkat was Democratic, not tile
total number u l vrltes, 11 we are concerned with the wealth of nations, then per capita gross rlatioxlal product (GNP) would be a
better measure than total GNP. (If we do not standardize these
aggregate measures, then almost any variable will correiate with
any other, simply heca~zselarger states or rlations have more of
almost everything than smaller ones.)
Box 2.3 presents examples of hypotheses and of how the wriables might be operationalized, Exercise B at the end of the chapter presents other exaxnpies for self-testing.

BOX 2.3 Examples o f Hypotheses and

Oprrarionat Definitions

1. The more a congressional calldidate spends, the more

successful his or her campaign.

S p e n d i ~ g :Tlze amount of campaign spending reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Succas: The percellrage o f the total votes received by
the candidate according to America Votes,
2, The more econoxnicaily developed a nation, the lower
the level of political instability

Economic development: Per capita GNP as reported

by the United Nations Yearbook,
Poiitical insmbility; The average number of coups
d'itat, assassinations, and irregular execrltive
transfers per year since 1970, according to the
Worfd Haadbook of Political a ~ Social
3. The higher the level of: a person's education, the more
likely he or she is to favor legal abortion.

Eiiucati~pl:Ask a survey respondent, "How far did

you go in s c l ~ o o ~ ? "
Opinion on abortion: Ask the survey respandent,
"Do you believe that ahortion should be legal
under any circu~nstancesor not?"


R~ildlfzgR Locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess

4, The trtore csmpetitive political parties are in a state,

the more the state spends on education,

Party cc~mpetz'tionzThe difference between the Republican and Democratic percentages of the vote
k ~ goverrlor
subtracted from 100, citl~~lilwd
data in Anzeric~Votes,
Spending fc~reducation: Per pupit spending for public elemeiltary and secondary education, according
to the U.S, Statistical Abstract.

Suggested answers far these exercises appear at the end of the
chapter. It is suggested that you attempt to complete the exercises
before looking at the answers,
For each af tl-re following hypotheses, identify wl-rat appear to be
the independent, dependent, and (if any', control variables and the
unit of analysis.
l. Media attention is necessary for a candidate to succeed in a
primary election,
2. With education, income, and region held constant, there is
little difference in turnout between whites and African
3. Southern states have less party competition than Northern
4, W11en Length of time since i~~dependeilce
is held constant,
democracies are trtore stable than dictatctrships.
5. The Larger a city, the higher the crixne rate tends to be.

Far each of the following hypotheses, construct opemtional definitions for the variables,

1. Cantroiling for education, the more urban an area, the

lower the voter ttlrnout,
2 , People who perceive that they are better off: economicalfy
tend to vote for the incumbent candidate for president,
3. Nations that receive U.S. foreign aid are more likely to support the Uilited States in foreign policy.
4. Winning candidates have more positive perceptions of voters than do losing candidates.
S. The better the state of the econr>my, the better the candidates s f the incumbent president" party do in congressional elections.

Suggested Answers
ta Exercises
l , Indepelldent variahle: media attention; dependent variable:
electinn success; unit of analysis: candidates
2. Independent variable: race; dependent variable: voter
turnout; controf variables: education, race, region; unit of
analysis: individuals
3. Independent variable: region; dependent variable: party
competition; unit of analysis: states
4, Independent waria ble: ty ye of government; dependent wariable: stability; control variable: time since independence;
unit af analysis: nations
S. Independent variahle: size; dependeilt variable: crime rate;
~ l r ~of
i t ar~alysis:cities

1, Education: The median years of education af persons 25

years af age and over, according t a the U.S. Statistical
Urbanization: The proportion of persons living in places
with poyulations of 2,500 or more, according to the U.S.
Bureau of the Census,
Voter turnout: The proportion of persogls of voting age casting ballots in the 1996 presidential election, according to tlze
U,S. Statistical Abstract.

3 fl

R~ildlfzgR Locks C>( &:re Research Prc~cess

2. E c o n o ~ ~ perceytic~n:
Ask swvey respondent, ""Do you
think you and your hmily are better off eccrnotnically,
worse off, or about the same as you were four years ago?"
Presidential vote: Ask survey respondent, "Did you vote for
Bill Clintan, Bob Dole, Ross 13erat,or surneone else in the
electioil last Nc~vember?"
3. Foreigxl aid: Did a nation receive any military or economic
assistance from the United States in 1997, according the
U.S. State Department?
Support in foreign policy: Percentage of time a nation
voted with the United States in the United Nations General Assembly in 1997, calculated from data in the Uni&d
RTatz'ons Yearbook,
4. Positive perceptions: Interview candidates for the state legislat~~re
and ask, "Do you ttlink tl-rat voters in this district
are highly ink>rmed,somewhat informed, or not very well
informed about the issties?'"
WinninglXosing: Look at the report of the State Election
Crjmmission to see which of the candidates won the election and which iost,
5. State of the economy: The change in real per capita disposable personal income for the year of the election, according
to the Annual Report of $he Council of Ecorromic AduiSe~s.
Success of the incuxnbent president" party: CaXculate what
percentage of House seats were wail by that party" scndidates in each election from results in Coqressionab Qsdauterly Weekly Report,

Research Design

Once we have selected a research question and set forth one: or

more testable hypotheses, the next step is to fc~rmulatea research
design. This step, along with the building blocks covered in the previous chapter, i s critically ixnportant in the research process.
People use the term research design in two different ways. In this
chapter, research design refers to the logical method by which we
propose to test a hypothesk. But in a braader sense research design
can refer to a whole proposal fur a research project that would also
include the review of the literature, details of how data will be collected, a discussion of the statistical tests that will he used once the
data are collected, and possibly even a budget far the proposed expenditures. This broader sort of research design i s what you would
submit if you were asking for financial support for a projecc or approval Eor a graduate thesis proposal,

The Concept of Causality

The types of research designs presented in this chapter are all intended to test wllether one variable causes anutl-rer or causes tl-re
variatioil in another, As explained in the previous chapter, many
hypotheses use the language of callsation-far example, "influences," ""leadsto," or "is a result of." The previous chapter itlcrodwed the idea of an independent variable (the cause) and a dependent variable (the effcct). Here we will see more completely what
this idea of causality means and how it can be determined,
In order to draw the conclusion that one thing causes another,
we must determine that three criteria have been met, The first is co-

uaricatiorr, that is, evidence that two phenomena tend to occur at

the same tirnes or for tl-re same cases. If we observe, for example,
that every time there is a crisis in foreign policy, presidential popularity increases, or that people with high incomes are more likely
than poor people to be Republicans, we are noting evidence of covariation. Govariation is also called correlagkon, and statistics that
measure the strength of covariatic~nare referred to as correlatiofz
coefficients-or simply curreliatiorzs, Ail types of research designs
intellded to determine whether causation exists are set up to measure the extent of covariation,
People s o ~ ~ e t i m have
e s stopped there and assumed that covariation alone is grounds for concluding that causation exists. This
kind of reasoning can lead to the conclusion, for example, that
storks are respmsible for babies or that umbrellas cause rain. But,
as is often repeated in methodology courses, correlation does not
mean causality. Two other criteria must also he met, One is time
order. fW;e rr.lust have evidence that the presumed cause (the independent variable) happened before tl-re presumed effect (the dependent variable), The third criterion is nonspurkousness, We must be
sure that any c~variationwe observe betweeri the independent and
dependent variables is not caused by other factors. As we will see,
each type of research design attempts to fulfil! these criteria, with
varying degrees of success,

Types of Research Design

The "?).ueWExperirne~ztulDexigli~
When many people tl-rink of ""science," they think of experiments.
It is true that the physical and biological sciences and some of the
social sciences use experimentation frequently, though never exclusively. It is i~nporttlntto understand how an experiment is set up,
not because experiments are terribly comxnon in political science,
but because the logic involved is relevant to all types of research design. We sometimes use the modifier ""true'3ltecause the term experr' sometimes used to describe all sorts of tl-rings that are
not experiments at ail,
Figure 3.1 presents an outline of what is required bp the 'kciassic" experiment-the
sixnpless version of a true experiment.
Experimentation has its own vocabulary, employing such terms

FIGURE 3.1 The dassic experiment and an example

A, The C:lassic Experiment

Assip subjects f
randomly or by

{ f~tdcpcrmdermt




varia blc)

Control group

B, An Example: Hypothesis: Taking an introctuctory American

C;overnment course increases political interest,

Assign students /fl


\ Control group

S t i ~ ~ ~ u t u s Posttcst
score) $
{Do nor

130srrcst f
( ffolitical


as sul2jecd.s and slinzulus; we will use them, but we will also see
how they are translated into the terms we have used to describe
The classic experiment starts with a group af subficts, tl-rat is, the
units ofa~aIysis,whether individual people, laboratory animals, or
anything else. These subjects or units are then divided into two
groups by soxne method that would assure tl-rat the two groups are
as identical as possible on the dependent variable in the hypothesis,
The best: way to do this is to rartdomb iasskrz the subjects tct the
two groups by same inethod such as flipping a coin, Xf this is done,
then the two groups should, statisticalljf, be identical in their distribution on not only the depende~itvariable but. also on any otlzes
variables, wllether or not those variables can be measured. Sornetimes randomization is not used, mainly because the number of


Research I>wign

subjects in the experiment is too small, Under those circumstances

it is necessary to use a pretest to rneasure the dependent variable.
Then a procedure catted "matching" is used to divide the subjects
into two groups that have very similar distributions on the dependent variable.
The subjects in the first group, often called the experimental or
treatment group, then receive a stimuists. The stimulus (or lack of
it) is the independent variable in the hypothesis. The other group,
called the colztrol grow, does not receive the stimulus. After the
stimulus has hacj time to work its expected effects, all subjects in
both groups are given a posttest that measures the dependent
variable, Finaliy, the results of the two groups' ppasttests are coxnpared. If they are significantly different in the way predicted by
the hypothesis, then we can conclude that the hypothesis is confirmed, (""Significantly" k a statistical term that will be explained
later in the bor>k,)
Tc) understand how the classic exyerimerit can ""pove39he hyporhesis, it is useful to see how the three causaliq criteria are met.
First, it is the posttest comparison that shows whether there is covariation. If, for example, the experimental group measures higher
on the dependent variable in the posttest, tl-ren we see that she subjects who received the stimulus measure higher on the test than
those who are not, Second, we inust be certain that the results are
nonspurious. Tlnis is assured by the fact that the experi~nentaiand
treatment groups were exactly the same in all ways before the stirnulus was applied. That is why it is so important that the sstbjetlts be
assigned to groups by an appropriate method, suck as randarnization or matching. If they were assiglled to grt.>upsin any other way,
then we could not be sure that any difference between groups was
caused by the stixnulus. (It is aiso assumed that all sub~ectswere
treated in the same way in all other regards.) Finally, the criterion
of time order is clearly satisfied by the fact that the stimulus (independent variable) is applied before the posttest measures the depelldent variable, Thus, a properly conducted experilneat call provide a ct~nvincingtest of a hypothesis that one variahle causes
has a causal effect on-another.
Let us see how the classic exprirnellt could be used to test the hypothesis that taking an introductory American Govern~nentcourse
increases the degree of political interest among college students.
(This example is also diagrammed in Figure 3.1,) First of all, we
might take as our subjects ail of the incoming freshmen at a college

one year, Using the ~zniversity" corrtputer, we randomly separate

them into two groups, We schedule one group (tl-re experimental
group) to take the course (let's call it PS IM), whereas those in
the other group (the control group) are not allowed to take the
course, At the end of the semesler, we require every freshman to
fill out a questionnaire that asks a list of questions about their interest in politics. The questionnaire, which is the posttest in this
experiment, is structured such that tl-re responses yield a score reflecting degree of political interest. If the experimental groupthe group that took PS 101-has a lzigher average score than the
controt group, then we conclude that PS 101 caused greater interest, confirming our hypothesis.
It is important to emphasize that m a n i p ~ f a f i of
u ~subjects is a
rlecessary part of any true experiment, Xn the PS 101 example, we
had to tell students wl-rether or not they would take tl-re course,
rather than allowing them tc-,make that decision, Such manipufation is necessary because self-selection would probably yield two
groups tl-rat would not be identical in their political interest initially. Indeed, students who have more interest in politics are more
in American Government, so the fact that
likely to choose t ~ enroll.
they have more interest after taking the course than tl-rose wllo did
not take the course would prove ~lothingin itself.
Although true experiments are generally considered to be the
best test of hypotheses, they are also subject to a number of practical limitations. One of the biggest problems is that it is difficult or
impossible to trtanjpulate trtany independent variables. We cannot
change a person's gender, race, age, a r rnany atlzer social characteristics or people" beliefs or attitudes. Nor can we manipulate
larger social phenomena, such as wars, economic conditisns, elections, a r ather events. In fact, the use of experimentation in political science has largely been iimited to investigations of communications, for we can manipulate, at least temporariIy, individuals'
exposure to sucl-t stimuli as campaign speeches, advertising, news
reports, and instrwtional events such as lectures,
Another problem with experimentation is a lack of representative
saxnples, Whereas nonexperirnexltal researchers usually make a careful effort to use random samples of the entire adult populaticrn for
surveys, it is rarely possible to involve anythir~glike a sa~rtpleof the
general public in. an experiment. Typically researchers conducting an
experiment advel-tise for people willing to spend a few hours of their
time at a specified location participating in a study in exchange for a


Research I>wign

mtrdest fee, but this inevitably will excfude large segments of the
population. In the PS I01 example this was not a problem, since
the relevant population consisted only of college studems.
Another freq~zentproEtlexrl is that experimeaits often are conducted in an artificial setting, Consider the typical. situation in experiments on effects of the mass media: Most people do not usually watch television in a strange place, surrounded by strangers,
knowing that they will have to fill out a questionnaire afcerward.
Indeed, the experiment may require watching material about politics by people who would never expose themselves to such stimuli on their own, Hence we can never he completely sure about
wl-rether the effects observed in the experimental situation would
be the same in real life.
A related probkm is that of outside influences, Most experirnents in political science use hurnan beings as subjects, and human
beings cannot he as closely controlled as Laboratory animals. Thus
it is always possible that other stimuli, such as corrversations, news
events, and personal experiences, might affect surne subjects. If the
time between the stimulus and the posttest is minimal, as it might
well be in a highlf artificial setting, then this corrcerrt is minimized.
But if tl-re experiment runs far weeks or months, as in tl-re 13S 101
example, there are innumerable possibilities for other influences to
exert an effect and contaminate the experiment, It is often a
diternxna far the researcher as to wl-rether to construct a Iixnited,
well-controlled experiment in a higMy artificial setting or to use a
real-world setting over a longer period a i d run the risk of havixlg
external influences affect the outcome.
Finally, ethical considerations are of particular concern in human
experimentation. Unlike other research designs, in which subjects
are only observed, presumably with minimal or no disturbance to
them, expriments do somethit~gto subjects that they might not
otherwise experience, This is obviously a serious consideration in
biological, medical, and even some psycholr~gicalresearch, where
stimuii or other experimental conditions (suck as the withholding
of medical treatment) could be very harmful. It is seldosrl a serious
probiexn in political science experiments, where stimuli usually are
limited to c.r>mmui~icatioils,
but possil?ie dangers must aiwa y s be
considered. Indeed, federal law requires that researcfi invoivitlg
human subjects undertaken by any institution receiving federal funds
(wi~ichincludes almost all colleges and universities) he approved by

a local panek (The rule even extends to nr)nexperimeiital research

involving any contact with individuals, including survey research.)
Despite all these potentiaf prc.>blems,experimentation does have
consideratlte merit as a technique for testing hypotheses. Indeed,
every method has its limitations. The preceding discussion should
serve to point out that aithough experimellts are logically the best
way to fulfil1 the causalit)i criteria, in many situations they are nut
the best choice of research design,
A number of variations in experimental design expand on the
si~rtpleclassic model to circn~rtventsome of the potential problems. One addresses the possibility that giving a pretest inay have
an effect on the subjects, If the subjects are initially given a yuestiuilnaire on some political topic, that alone may increase their interest or affect their opinions and thus potentially influence their
responses on the posttest given an hour or two later, A solution to
this problem is the Solomon four-group design, in which the experiment is done twice, once with pretests and once without.
13asttestcomparison can then determine the effect of the pretest as
well as that of the stimulus. The Solomon four-group design is actually a version of the f;sctorial desigfs, which is used when there i s
rnore than one stimulus (and thus mare than one independent
variable) or difkring levels of the same stimulus. The experiment
i s simply done two or more times with different subjects, so that
each possible combination of stirnuli can be applied, An example
would be a study on the effect of: precinct-level campaigning in
which one group of subjects were exposed to politicat appeals only
by Democrats, one only by Republicans, one by both parties, and
a control group that received no appeals. Regardless of the number of groups and combination of stimuli, the logic of a11 experirnent is the same,

The Quaii Eperiment (Natgral Experiment)

The second type of research design i s comrrtoniy called the quasi
experiment or natural experiment, This is an unfortrli~ateiahel as it
is not a true experiment. It can be presented in rnuch the same
terms as a true experiment, hut it is [>hen used without any such
references. A better name might he the before-and-after design, f c x
that is clre essence: comparison of the dependent variable belore
and after the independent variable has heten applied.


Research I>wign

Figure 3.2, diagrams the quasi-experimental design. It does look

similar to the classic experiment, but it differs in two vital ways.
First, the subjects are not assigned to groups. Rather, we observe
which subjects have something happen to them and then go hack
and sort them into the experi~xtenta!and control groups. Thus the
quasi experiment lacks manipulation of the independent variable,
which is the essence o f a true experiment, Second, the quasi experiment requires a pretest af the dependent variable, so that t11e
amount of change can be measured for each group. It is a significant difference in change between groups that would lead to a
conclusion that the independerit variable influences the dependent
variable, In this way, the criterion of cova&tz'tzn is met in this desig~l,We can observe whether the stimulus fix., the independent
variable) is associated with a different amouxlt of chaxlge in the dependent varia ble.
But what about the other two criteria? The criterion of time
order is met, as this before-and-after design always includes a
rneasure of the dependent variable after the stixnulus-and so we
always know that the independent variahle came before the dep e d e n t variable, But what about the criterion of nonspuriousness? A true experiment assures nonspurious results by starting
out with identical experimentai and cnlltrol groups, But in the
quasi-experimentd design, the two groups may be (and ~zsually
are) quite different from one anather in many respects. Tile quasi
experiment relies on the assumption that all of the other possible
factors, kaiown and unknown, that might influence the dependent
variable l-rave had their effects on all subjects at the time af the
pretest, and therefore any differences between the grou ys in the
extent of change frcrrn pretest to posttest is presumed to result
from tl-re stixnulus, that is, the independent variable. Admittedly,
this assumption is something we can be less sure about than the
principle that large, randomly assigned groups will be identical,
as is the case in a true experiment, But it makes possible the testing of causal hypotheses in situations where a true experiment
would be difficult or even imyr>ssibfe,
Figure 3.2 also outlines an example af a quasi experiment tl-rat is
similar to the example of a classic experiment in Figure 3.1, The
hypothesis to be tested is that watching a presidential debate increases intensity of support for candidates. The subjects are students enrolled in large sections of an introductory political science
course. Before the debate, they are given a survey that measures


The quasi-cxpcrimcntal dcsigrl and an cxarnpIc

A, The Quasi-experimental Llesign

Subjects are not

ass~gncdto groups
m advance; they
are sorted after ~t
is known whrcls
experienced the

(Delsendcnt (Independent (Deperldent
Varta ble)

(Delsendcnt (Independent



"JI f"feresr



Compute '
(ll"eper~dent Change

B. An Example: Hypothesis: Watching a presidenral debaee increases

itltensit-y of support,
of sumart) watchmg
Suhjecn: all
studerlts tn a ctass

ot support)

of support) nor watchit:

their attitudes about the candidates, including which catldidate

they prefer and how strongly they hold that preference. After the
debate, a second survey is administered, again asking for strength
of preference and also asking whether or not the student watched
the debate. The surveys include a coded means of identification so
that the results of an individual's pretest can be compared with his
or her posttest while guaranteeing confidentiality or anonymity.
With matched pretests and postrests in hand, it is possible to calculate whether the intensicy of candidate preferences increased more
in those who saw the debate (the experimental group) than in those
who missed the debate (the control grttup). Tncidemall?i, a variet):
of studies over the years, including one by the author using this design, have generally confirmed this hypothesis. Presidential debates,
it seems, do not generally make voters favor one candidate over the


Research I>wign

other; rathes, they srrengthen the preference for the choice the voter
has already made,

T h e Correlational Design
The correlational design is very simple. At a hare minimum it requires only collecting data on an independent and a dependent
variable and determining whether tl-rere is a pattern of relationship.
I-.Iowever, it is usually advisable also to colfect data on other potentially relevant variables and statistically control for them, Figure
3.3 presents a11 outline of this sirtlple procedure, The correlational
design differs from the quasi-experimental design in that it does not
require any repeated measurements of a variable over time, (For
that reason, it is also called a "crross-sectionaImdesign,) It is bp far
the 111ost common a ~ p r o a c hin political scieltce research. To avoid
confmion, it: shoutd be pointed out that "cr>rrelations,'"thnt is, statistical measurements of the strength of the relationsl~ipbetween
variables, can be used not just in this type of design but also in
quasi experiments and in true experiments.
How does this si~npledesign fulfil1 the three criteria of carzstlfiw
The extent of covariation is clearly deterrnined by rneasuring the extent of correlatioil between the independent and dependent variables. The correlational design attempts to meet the criterion of
nonspuriousness by analyzing the effects of control variables. This
method is nc>tas strong as that achieved by true experiments or even
quasi experiments, because here we can control only k)ir those variables of which we are aware and can measure, A1tkougl-s.some correlational research may control for a considerable number of other
factors, it is rlever possible to control for e v e ~ t h i n gthat rllight he
relevant, Hawever, it is olren possible to ensure that some of the
most prominent complicating hctors are not creating a spurious relationship between the independent and dependent variables.
It is on the criterion of time order that the correlational design is
weakest, Since no difference is required in the point in time when
the indeyendent anif dependent variables are collected, we can never
be sure that one must be the cause and the atl-rer the effect. Howeve4 as the discussion of independent and dependent variables in
Chapter 2 poiltted out, our knowledge of many subjects makes that
determination fairly easy, VVe know that although a person" gender
or race might affect his or her vote, it: could nor be tile other way
around, Hence, although the correlational desigr~is funda~nentally

FIGURE-,3.3 The corrclationaI dcsigrl and exaxnpIcs

A, The Correlational I3csign

Control variabtes


varia hle



K, An example: Hypothesis: Voter turnout is Iower in urban arcas.

Contrat for income, education
age, party competition, etc.




C , An example: Hyporl~esis:Campaign contact afiects voter;.

Czontrat for respondent's
party identif cation

Recall call-tpaign



M- Voted for
contacting party

weaker than the experimental and quasi-experiment4 designs, it

can provide considerable evidence of causality. And since it does not
require any manipulation or even continued measurernenrs over
time, it can be applied in any situation where data can be collected
a n two a r mare variables.
Here is an example ot: a carrelational design (also diagrammed
in Figr~re3.3).The a~zthorwished to test the hypothesis that voter
turnout is tower in urban areas. The units af analysis were counties within a state. The indepellde~ltvariable, urbanization, was
operationalized as the percentage of population Iivirlg in "iurhan
places" according to U.S. census data, The dependent variable,
voter turnout, was simply the number of votes cast divided by the
votitlg-age population. When these two figr~reswere analyzed, the


Research I>wign

relationship was vesy apparent. The ct~untieswith no urban population had the l-rigl-restturnout, and turnout declined as urbanization increased; the Ic~westturnout was iil the metropolitail areas,
which were almost entirety urban. But one trtight questiort whether
it is realty urbanization that affects turnout; after all, urban and
rural areas differ on many other characteristics known to he related
to turnout. Therefore, several other variables, ail availabie from
published sources, were used as control variables, including median
income, median education, percentage employed in manufacturing,
percentage in professic~naland managerial occ~tpaticjns,percentage
nonwhite, median age, and a measure of party cs~rtpetition.When
these other variable were controlled statistically (using multiple regressioil, a procedure that will be discussed in Chapter IQ),the relationship between urbanization and turnout was only slightly dirninisl~ed(Monroe 1977).
Correlational designs are frequently used in connection with data
from surveys, Here is an example (also diagrarrtmed in Figure 3.3)
where a control variable proved to be important. The researcher
(Mramer 1970) wished to test the hypothesis that conta~tlngvoters
in a doocto-door campaign caused them to vote for the party that
rnade the contact, The independent variable was measured by a survey question that asked whether the respondem remembered being
contacted by any workers from either of the political parties before
the election, The dependent variable was the respondent" reported
vote. Analysis of these two variables revealed a definite pattern, Respondents who recalled having been contacted by Republican workers tended to vote Republican, and those wlla had heard from the
Demo~cratsusually vr~tedfor the Democratic candidate.
But did this mean that door-to-door contact really affected
votes? When the respondents>party identification (i.e., whether respondents identified themselves as Republicans, Democrats, ar independents) was used as a control variable, the relationship between contact and vote disappeared. What had happened was that
party workers tended to contact vtlters who had supported their
party in the past, Those people voted for the party of the contact,
but they would have anyway. Like many other studies of campaigning, this example showed that such attempts to persuade voters rarely change their prekrences.
Tl1e example also ilfustrates the importance of using control
variables. Some correlational research reports can he found in
which, for one reason or another, the analyst does not attempt to

control for any variables, The results nevertheless have some value,
because tlzey tell us that two variables da occur together. However,
our ability to draw any cr~nclusionsabout causaliq between the variables is more limited. Methods of statistical controlling and their application to causal interpretation are presented in Cl~apter10,

Although there are a great number of vtariatic~ilson these three basic

types of design as well as ways of combinkg them, there is also a
great deal of research in the literature of political and social science
that does not meet the requirexnents of even a correlational design
without control variables, Often this research does not invc~fve:
quantitative data (though it could do so), but it may be quite ernpirical. Essentially, such work is descriptive and may serve to increase our knowledge, hut it cannot "'prove" anything in a scientific
sense. An example of such descriptive work is the case stgdy, in
which the history of a particular event is recounted and analyzed,
sometimes in great depth. There many examples of lengthy studies
on how particular policy decisions were made, Their authors seek to
shed some tight on why those decisions were reached, hut since only
one case is studied, we have no way of knowialg what the outcome
would have been if conditions and actions had beexi differexit. The
weakness of a case study is that it Iacks the ability to measure covariation. Even il a case study could determine causality in some
way, its conclusions would not he generalizations. However, case
studies and other, similar types of research can be valut~biebecause
they may suggest research questions and hypotheses to which more
rigorous designs involving larger numbers of cases can be applied,

Suggested answers follow the exercise questions, It is suggested that
you attempt to write these designs hefore you look at the answers.

Propose a hypothesis m d a research design of the type specified,

l. Write an experimental desigil for the research question "Dc3ets
negative political campaigning decrease voter turnout?'"


Research I>wign

2. Write a quasi-experiment4 design for the research question

""Boes increasing speed limits increase the number of traffic fataiities?
3. Write a correlatiollal design for the research question ""Does
election day registration lead to higher voter tt~rnout?"
13roposel-rypothesesand write research designs of each type for the
research question ""Do the efforts of precinct workers contacting
voters drrring a campaign g a k votes for their party" candidates?'"
1. Write an experi~nentaldesign for this question.
2 , Write a quasi-experimental design h r this question,
3. Write a correlational desigr~for this question,

Suggested Answers to Exercises

1. The hypatl-resis is that exposure to negative advertisernents
will decrease tl-re intention to vote. Subjects are recruited
by advertisements and offered $15 to participate in a
stucly of iwal news, They are randomly assigned to tlze experimentai and control groups. The experimental group is
shown a videotape of a recent local newscast into which
has been inserted an advertisement far a U,S, Senate candidate tl-rat is ""negative" in nature, that is, it makes critical comments about the cmdidate's opporrent. The control group watches a tape with the same content except
that a nonpoliticai product commercial has been inserted
instead of the political ad. Afterward, the subjects are
asked if they intend to vote in the Senate election or x~ot,
The percentages of each group intending to vote are tl-ren
compared, This experimental design was used by Ansolabehere et ai. ( 1994); the researchers also iwestigated
the sarne research question with a quasi-experirnencal design using aggegate data,
2. The hypothesis is that increasinlg speed limits inrcreases highway fatdicies. When Congress allawed states to increase
speed limits on interstate highways, some states did so and

others did not, This makes a quasi-experimental design

possible. The pretest is the traffic fatality rate in each state
during the last year that the speed limit was SS mifes per
hour in aII states, States are then divided into tvvo groups:
those that increased the speed Limit dtlring the next year
and those that did not. The posttest is the traffic fatality
rate in each state during the first year that some increased
the limit. The cl-ranges in death rates from pretest to
posttest Eor the two gn(>upsare then compared.
3. The hypothesis is that election day voter registration results
in higher voter t u r n ~ u t .The units of analysis are states.
Tl-re independent variable is whether or not a state had
election day voter registration in 1496, The dependent
varia bIe is the percentage of voting-age population casting
batlots in tl-re 1996 presidential election, The relationship
between these tvvo variables is analyzed, controlling for
other characteristics of each state's population, includitlg
medial1 years of education, xnedian hmity income, median
age, degree of party competition, percentage living in
~lrbanareas, and whether it was a southerr-r state or not,
1. The l-rypothesis is tl-rat people contacted by someone working for a candidate will be xnore likely to vote for the candidate. A random sample of registered voters is selected,
and the s m p l e is rmdomly divided into experimental and
control groups. Workers go to the homes of voters in the
experimental group and give a piece of Democratic party
campaign literature to the selected voter arid deliver a
short speech asking for support for the candidate b r Gongess* Those in the control groups receive a nonpartisan
brochure and message urging them to vote, Xmmediately
after the election, the postcesr is administered by using a
tetepho~le survey asking whether each person in the
sampte voted and, if so, fur whom they voted. The percentages voting for the Democratic candidate supported
by the campaign workers is then compared for the two
2. The hypothesis is that voters who recalt having been contacted by a campaign worker for a candidate will be more

Research I>wign

likely to vote for that candidate. A random sample of registered voters is selected. A panet survey is conducted three
months beiore a gubernatorial election, and all respondents are asked their voting ilatenticzn in the coming election for governor, Immediately after the electian, the same
individuals are interviewed and asked for whom they
voted. They are also asked if they recalf havirtg been personally contacted by workers for either candidate. 'The
voting intention fi-om the first survey for each individual is
c o ~ ~ p a r to
e dhis or her response from the postelection survey to see whether there was arty change. The data are
then analyzed to see whether there was greater cl~ange
amoilg those who were contacted by either party, contacted by both parties, or not contacted. Note that this is
similar to the research by Krarner (1970) used as an example of a correlational design in Figure 3.3C. But the design proposed here is a quasi-experimental design because
the dependent variable (voting intention) is measured both
before and after the independent variable (possible contact
by a party worker) is measured.
3. The l-rypathesis is that the more time put in by precinct
workers fc~ra party during an eiection campaign, the better that party will do in the etection, The independent
variable, worker time, is measured by surveying botlz the
RepuI?.iicanand Democratic precinct committee members
fro117 a random sample of precincts in a state at the time of
an election. They are asked haw much time they put in
during the campaip, and the net advantage in time to Republicans over the D e ~ ~ o c r a tiss computed for each
precinct. Tlze dependent variable is the Republican percentage of the vote for a minor office in each precinct, The
relatiomhip between these two variables is analyzed, controlling for otlzer clzaracteriscics of the precinct available
from census data, including median income, percentage in
professionat and managerial employment, percentage nonwhite, and median age. A number of studies have used this
sort of design, includinf: Katz and Eldersveld (1961j and
Cutright (1963); mtlst have found that precina campaigning had oniy a small impact on the vote,

Published Data Sources

How do we get the data rlecessary to execute our research designs

and test hypotheses? Often it is possibie to use information others
have collected and made available to the public. This is fortunar-e,
because it is rare that even a very well funded project would allow
the researcher to travel to many cities or states, let alone to aII the
nations of the world, to collect information first-hand. Tl~iscllapter introduces some of the major published sources of data that political scientists use in their researctl and suggests some strategies
for discovering other sources, The chapter concludes with a description of content analysis, a technique for turning verbal messages into quantitative data.
An explanation of the term d n a is needed here. Data xnight be
defined as empirical observations of; one or more zilnriables for a
rr~mberof cases, collected t o the same opercltional definitio~s.The examples of operalional definitions presented in
Chapter 2 included several that were based oil published data
frorrl a reference source. When we have to rely on existing sources
for our data, we must construct our operational definitions in
terms of the data available, P-iaving some familiarity with what
kinds of data are available and where they might be found makes
this task less difficult,
Although we usually think of data as numerical, this is not necessarily the case. Many variables are actually a record of which category a case falls into-for example, Republican, Northeastern,
Catholic, high, medium, or low-but since the infc~mationfc~und
in published sorirces often csncerns groups or aggregates, the data

Published Data .Sozarccs

are in x~urnericalterms, usually as totals or in strine standardized

form such as percentages or averages.

The Internet as Data Source

This chapter is mainly collcertled with published data, which generatly can be found in a library or, increasingly9on the -Internet, In
the saxnpling of data sources presented here, some Internet addresses are nt->tedthat can provide access to such sources. (The Internet addresses cited here were accurate at the tirne of this writing,
but keep in mind that they may have changed,) Data obtained h a m
the Internet should be used with caution, however, for several reasons, One is that since there is virtually nt->limitation, legal or practhere are ""data" to be
tical, on what can be placed on the Inter~~et,
found there that rnay be l-righfy misleading, if not completely inaccurate. Probabiy the safest strategy would be to limit one" use of
the Internet for research purposes to those sites that contain inforrnation such as government documents and standard reference
books of the type one would find in the library.
Second, although searching for data over the -Internet offers the
advantage of not having to travel to a library, actually going to a
research library (s~tchas most college and universitjr libraries),
armed with the kind of background provided in this chapter, is
likely to be mucl-r less tirne consuming than randornly searching
Web sites. A major advantage of searching the Internet for data is
the possibility of finding informatio~~
that is more up-to-date than
printed data.

The Importance of
Units of Analysis
As the discussion of hypotl-reses and variables in Chapter 2, should
have rnade clear, the choice of unit of analysis is vitally imporcam
in planning a research project. This is especially true for research
that relies on published data, as these data sources usually are organized by type of unit of analysis. Much of such data is reported
by geographic or pc>litical units, such as nations, states, counties,
municipalities, districts, cexisus tracts, and precincts, In planning a
research project that will use published data, it is necessary first to
make sure that the information is reported for the particular unit of
analysis needed. Often a given reference book includes data on

Published Data Sozdrces


many different kinds of variables (economic, political, social) but

only for a single kind of unit, such as stavs or cities. Tlzerebre, the
presentation of major sources of data below is organized not only
by the substantive type of data but also by the units for which the
data are reported.
The sowces suggested in this chapter are primarily of the type
that would provide the information necessary for testing hypotheses, Fur exaxnple, if you wish to test a hypothesis about the relationship between the per capita income of nations and their level of
voter turnout, you obviously need to find sources that report these
data for a large number of nations, preferably almost all of tfzem,
If you had to reiy on individual sources fur each nation, your
search would be much more time consuming, and you might wel!
find that different sources use somewhat different definitions.
Hence the sources sugested here report data for many cases, and
often for d l possible cases,
Most published data relevant to political research are aggregate
data, that is, they report summary figures on the population of geographic a r political units, Therefure, two reminders of points
made in Chapter 2 might be useful here, First, one must be careful
to avoid the ecological fallacy: Do not attempt to draw conclusions
about individuals from aggregate data. Second, aggregate data usually are meaningf~rlonly if they are standardized in some way, such
as in terms of percemges. Aggregate data ofren are akeady in an
appropriate standardized form, but not always. Usually the researcher can convert the data into a useful form, such as by dividing a total by the population of the unit of analysis to produce the
percentage or per capita figure,
Most published data are aggregate, but soEBe are irtdividual,
rnainly where tl-re individuals are not ordinary peopie. For example,
dara on a number of personal characteristics of members of the
U,S, Congress, including their individual votes on bills, is reacliity
avaita bie, And "individuals" h the sense of unit of analysis can include goverilment agencies, political parties, corporations, and
unions, to name only a few institutions o n which published data
can be found. But in general, published sowces provide little i h r mation of relevance to political research about ordinary people as
individuals, though there is a great deal about groups of per~ple.
Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to collect such inlormation nor
from a library but through an original survey, the methodoIogy of
which is presented in Chapter 5.

Published Data .Sozarccs


The following sectiorzs of the chapter; arranged by type of inforrnation and unit of analysis, are intended to introduce you to a few
of the published data sources frequently used in political science research; it is just a sampling to get you started, Note also that the
sources Listed here are suggested only as places to find data. They
would not be helpfwfin locating research findings or generally
doing the background Iiterature review rlecessary to formulate a research question.

Strategies for
Finding Data Sources
The resorirce to which many students turn first to find idormation
in a library is the subject catalttg, ALtbough this is an appropriate
resource for finding books that discuss research topics, it is nut necessarily the most promising for locating data sources a n those topics. Many of the most important collections of data, such as the
Statistical! Abstract of the United States (discussed below), include
information on so many topics that not ail would be inc1w&d in
the catalog, Jn additiorz, you will probably be interested only in a
particular unit of analysis, such as states, so information on cities
or nations would not be useful fc~ryou, Here are some tips that
might lead you to what you need more quickly,

G i n Familiarity with Major SourceThe mare ftzmiliarity you have with the important sources, whether
you read them it1 the library or at an Jnternet site, the easier your
search will be. This chapter is intended to provide the begir~ningsof
that familiarity, Given the way libraries are organized, when you
find one reference sowce, you may well find similar and possibly
mtrre useful sorzrces nearby

As was emphasized in Chapter I, it is importa~ltto review past research literature when fomulating your research questions and hypotheses. The Iiterature review is also useful for loating data, because you can see wl-rere otl-rers found their information. This tells
you what was avaihabie and where it was found. However, to get

Published Data Sozdrces


this information, often you will. need to go to the original report,

typically a journal article, rather than relying on a summar)r, such
as you might find in a textbook, Even when you have located a reference source, you may need to check the origind source of its datca
for more detailed information, suck as exactly how the variables
were defined..

Consult Librarians or Other "Expert.("

When at a loss for where to find inforrnatiorz on a particnlar type
of variable, consult the library staff, Most college and university libraries have personnel who specialize in different subject areas.
Your questions are likely to be better received if you have thought
out exactly what yori need, including the unit of analysis. But he receptive for sugestions on alternative indicators for your variables.
Cansuiting the library staff may he particularly important when
using U.S. government documents, because fibraries often catalog
this material in different ways from other publications. Your iibrary also may have databases on CD-ROAMS,and some material
rnay be available only 0x3 inicrotitm or micrt~ficlne,so advice frt~ma
staff member is partict~larlyuseful for the uninitiated,
Faculty members are mother source of expertise. They have a
great deal of experience with subjects in their disciplir~esand rnay
be able to point you directly to the source you need, Muck help is
available if you ask far it,
Take (rcurefgl Note of
the Soulz-6.c You F h d

Once you do find information that may fill your research needs, be
sure to write down just where you found it, including all of the information about the publication. This is important for two reasuns. First, you may need to consult tl-rat source again. Second, and
more importailt, any research you present using those data will require a full citati~rzof the source, Recorditzg complete information
is particularly important for Xnterrlet sites, Although bibliographic
formats for citing electroilic sources have not yet been staildardized, it is certainly necessary to include the author (if available), the
title, and tl-re date as well as tl-re exact site address and tl-re date you
accessed it f Scott and Garrison 1998, 123-1241,

Published Data .Sozarccs

Some General Data Sources

A few sources encompass a number of categories of both types of
data and r~nitsof ax~a'iysis.The Statistical A h ~ t r a c tof the United
States, published annut~llyby the U.S. Department of Coxnmerce,
demoincludes data o n a wide variety of variables-political,
graphic, economic, artd social-for the United States as a whole
and for tl-re fifty states as well as a limited amount of inforrnation
on U.S. metropolitan areas, m 4 o r cities, and other nations. Although most of the information in the Statistical Abstract comes
frorn the U,S. Brtreau of the Census and sther government agencies,
it includes xnaterial lrom a wide variety ol private sources as well.
Also worthy of melltion is the World Almanac, which has been
privately published every year for over a century. The Wc~rld
Almarrac reports information on an enorxnous nuxnber of topics, and
the latest edition will include some information more recent than
other published books. it is also the most widely available reference
book, and is reasonably priced and sold on newsstands.
The America~Sriazisdw I ~ d e xis a comprehensive guide to data
found in inost U.S. g u v e m e n t publications. it allows searches by
subject matter as well as by geogaphic, econoxnic, and demographic
Iatrrrret sit-f.:Fedstats is an on-line source that provides access to
statistical reports from many U,S. governxnent agencieschttpz>.

Demographic Data
This section lists some sources of data on general population characteristics, incl~~ding
economic and social indicators-data such as
income, employment, race, age, literacy rates, and government
spending, The sources are preselited in terms Of units of analysis reported,

For the world as a whole and the nations as units, the primary
sources are publications by the United Nations. The most general
source is the United Nations Yearbook. More detailed inforrnation
can be found in other UN volumes such as the Demogmphk Y e ~ r hook, Sd-atzstz'cal "Yearbook, and UNESCO Statistical Yearbook,

Published Data Sozdrces


Note that the information on individual x~atior~s

in these (and most
other sources) is compiled from reports submitted by the governments of those nations. Therehre, it is always possible that there
are considerable irraccuracies in solBe of the data, whether by design or by accident,
A number of other international agencies publish statistics on naic
The International Monetar).
tions, particularly e c o n o ~ ~indicators.
Fund (IMF) publishes the lnterniational Financial Sli;ltistics Yearbook. The Wc~rlciBank publishes the World Develczgf~entReport
and World Tables. The Organization for Econt~micCooperation and
Development ( QECD) publishes the annual Economic O~tloi>k.
A number of private pubiications also report these kinds of data,
usually drawing them from the more ofGcial sources, but often p=setitir-rgthem in a more convenient farm, Examples include the annual Sr~atennan'sYearbook, Polibicnl H a ~ d b o o ka f t h e World, and
World Econo1.7.iricDafa.

U.S. States and LOL-alitZeS

The most convenient and coxnprel-rensive source for dexnographic,
cconoxnic, atld social data for staees is the S~.arislicalA ~ S L ~ofCthe
United States, described earlier, The basic source of almost all U,S.
demographic inhnnation is the US. Bureau of the Census, which
reports it in a nurnber of publications. The census af the United
States is conducted every ten years, and each census produces a set
of vofu~nes.Two overall volumes cover the x~atior~
as a whole and
by state: U.S. General Population ChariacteriPstics and U.S. Social
and Economic Characteristiw, Separate volumes Eor each state provide more detailed breakdowns for units within the state, including
counties and xnunicipaiities, Soxnewhat easier to use is the county
and City Dat;a Book, which includes a number of widely used variables for all counties and larger cities in every state, and the State
and Metropolitan Area Data Book, which contains similar data for
those units.
Intt.rrlet size: The site fc~ron-line cetisus data is qhttp:
Privately published reference books for demc~graphicdata on
states and units within them include the Alfifanac of the Fifty States
and Katlzleen 0, Morgan" State R ~ x n k i ~ g ~ ,
A list of scjurces for c~thernatiotls can he found in The Statistiat
Abstract of the Ul-zitsd States,

Published Data .Sozarccs

Political and Governmenr;ll Data for Nations

This section lists a few sources of infc~rmationabout the governmental structure and politics fcjr a large number of nations. This
sort of data is generally not found in United Nations publications,
which are, as noted earlier, based on information reported by the
rlations themselves. This is particularly true of indicators that
might be used to measure variables such as political instability,
democracy, and civil liberties,
h a n g the possibfe sources that report some of this political information are the Politic~alHandbook of the World, World Enclyclopedia of Political S y s t e t ~ sand Parties, the Statesman's Yearbook, and the Ipzfernational Yearbook and Statesman2 W h o S
W h o . Particularly valuabie for its data 0x1 variabies such as assassinations, politicai rights, and irregular executive transfers is Charles
L, Taylor and David A, Jodice, World Handbook o(Politic7al and
S o c i ~ Irtdiccltors,
Williarn D, Cr>plin and Mictzael M. O'Leary3 Political Risk Yearbook, offers up-to-date assessments and predictions
about likely political and economic conditioils in all nations,
Of considerable interest to students of international politics are
data on milicary and defetlse activities. Sources for this sort of data
include Ruth Silvard, World Military and Soczal Expenditures,
Wcjrld Military Expendztures and Arms Transfers, World Arufamct3nts and Disl-krmanzct3n;ls Yearbook, and Military Balance.
The largest collection of international voting results data is
Thornas T. Mackie and Richard Rose, The l~ternatiulzalAlmanac
oJ Electoral History, Kenneth janda" Political Parties contains
data evaluating parties and related topics for fifty-three nations,

Data an U.S, Government and Politics

This section lists a few of the most useful sources for finding infarmation on the branches of the U,S, federal government as well as
state and loca1 units. One geileral, though hardly compreheilsive,
source is Harsld W Stanley and Richard 6..Nierni, Vi;t~alStatbfics
0%A~ntrricnvrPolilics, wl~ickiis designed for undergraduate students.

and the Presidency
As American political scientists have probably devoted more time
to studgillg the U.S. Congress than any other institution; a vast

Published Data Sozdrces


xiumber of sources of data are available 0x1 the two houses, their
members, and the districts tl-rey represent, The mast basic source
for Coltgress is the Cclrzgressional Record, published every day
Cotigress is in session. The Congressiovtisf Record reports everything said on the floor (and text that is inserred "into the record'"
but was not said) as well as all of the votes cast by individual members. However, the Congrwstonal Record is large and not particularly well organized, and a nurnber of private publications are usuall); more useful for most research projects.
The mtlst important referefices on C~ngressare the vario~zspublications of Corlgressional Quarterly, Inc. The basic source is the
C Q Weekly Report, which includes news stories on what is l-rappening in Congress and in gowmmeitt and politics generally as
well as the votes of each member on biifs and important procedural
questions, If your research deals with past years, the annual Congressio~alQuar&rly Ajmanac compiles much of the weekly information systematically, The biennial Pi?l'itics in America provides
profiles of mernbers m d el-reir districts, Cortgress alzd the N i l t i o ~is
a set of books that compiles information over many years. Congressional: Quarterly has long provided measures such as the presidential support score, a measure of how often Congress has agreed
with the administration. A competing weekly publication is the
Nationai Jourvtal, which is similar to CQ Weeky Report but concentrates sornewhat rnore on. the executive branclt.
To track down the content and status of hills currently under
consideration, the researcher may consult a Commerce Ctearing
House publication, the Congressional Index.
There are malty other private publications on Congress. Particularly useful is the bienxiial Al-ma~zacofA8"tterican Politics, which includes personal data on every member of Congress, their votes,
their districts, their campaign finances, and ratillgs of their voting
records by interest groups. John F. Bibby and Norman J, Ornstein's
Vital Statkttcs
Co15gressassembles many useful sets of variables.
More detailed data on campaign finance may be found in the Almanac of Federat' PACs arid Larry Makinsoxi arid Joshua Coldstein, Open Secre&: The DolEur Power of PACs in Coggress,
The ultimate source fur the data on congressional. districts that
appear in maliy of the aforementioned sources is a publication of
the U.S. B~lreauof the Census called Population arzd Housing
Characteristics far Congressional Districts, which presents data in
separate volumes for each state,


Published Data .Sozarccs

Many of the sources cited above for Crjngress, such as the CQ

Weekly Report and the A l ~ ~ a n aare
c also very useful far information on the presidenr. Other sources include Coilgressional Quarterly's Guide t o the Presiderscy and Lyn Ragsdale, Viul Statistics ciln
the Presidency.
I ~ t e r n e tsites: Information on the two houses of Congess, including documents and votes fc>r recent years, may be forzlxd at
and <http:llwww,senateegovr.

The mast general source for data on state governments is the annual Book of the Stdks, published by the Council of State Covernments. Other sources include Kathlcen 0. Morgan, S a t e R a n k t ~ g s ,
which deals mainly with spending; Kendra A, Hovey and HaroXd
A, Hovey, CQS Stage Fact Finder: Rankings Across America; and
Alfred N. Garwood, Almanac of the Fifty States.
More derailed information may require rekreltce to publications
from ir-rdividual states. The Statistical Abstract ir-rcludes a list of
major state sources, and M, Balachax~dranand S. BaXachar~dran's
State and Local Statistics Soz-lrces provides a detailed Listing,
For local governments, the basic sowce is the M u ~ i c i p a lYearhook*

Results of federal eilections-that is, fc~rthe presidench the Senate,

and the House-are refativeiy easy to find. Congressional Quarterly's Cude m U.S. Eleiticms reports statewde and district figures
for these offices since 1824. The America Votes series, published
every two years since 1956, r e p r t s vr>tesfOr federal offices and
governor by county. America at the Polk does the same at the state
level for tile earlier years of the twentieth century. Walter Dean
Ballots, 2 8.36-1 842 has presidential results
Bumham" Preszde~~iclJ
by counties, The World Alrntzrt~zcprovides county-by-county returns for recent presidential elections, Many of the general sources
cited above, including the Satistical Al~stract,also provide some
state-level data.
Results for state and focal elections are rnore problematic. Most
state governments publish reports on each election for statewide
and state legislative elections for the district and county level. For

Published Data Sozdrces


smaller llnits, such as wards and precincts, typically one must turn
to Local sources, Sometimes election results are published in local
newspapers shortly after the election. But for precinct returns it
may well he necessav to go to the city or csunty office responsible
h r administering elections to obtain such inbrmation, Tf you are
contemplating a project that would require such localized election
data, it is especially important to make sure that the data can be
obtained before proceeding any further,

Survey Data
Although political science research frequently relies on survey data,
most researchers are nat in a position to conduct their own surveys
on a large scale and must instead make use of the results of surveys
conducted by others. The largest body of pubtished survey resuits
is fc~undin the American Public Q p i ~ i o nIndm and the accompanying Americiarl P ~ b l i cOpirtion Datu, which begin with l 9 8 l
data. The Igdex is just that, a topically arrangcd list of survey questions, To find out the answers to a question cited in the I ~ d e xone
must then consult the D a t ~ a, microfiche collection of survey reports from a wide variety of sources.
A number of other sources are available, The Gallup Poll publishes The Ciallup Report (monthly since X 53651, which provides a
breakdown of the responses to each question by a standard set of demographic variables. The Galiap Poil is a set of volumes going hack
to X935 reporting all Gallup surveys in a more limited form* Elizabeth Hann Hastings and Philtip K, Hastings" Igdex to International
Publr:c O p i ~ i o n(annual since 1978) reports surveys from the United
States and many other nations, Floris W moll%
A AAnzeric~~z
Profile reports results from a nurnber of questions repeated from 1972
to 1989 in surveys by the Natioilai Opinion Researcfr Genter,
Although published results of srtrveys from sources such as those
cited above are necessarily aggregated, they can be used as sources
of data for research designs that compare the results of different
e s this type of research include the many analysurveys. E x a ~ ~ p l of
ses of how presidential popularity changes over time je.g+, Mueller
1973; Edwards 1983). There is also a body of research that uses results of surveys from many sources and coi~birtesthis with data on
governxnent policy decisions to assess the relationship between
public opinion and public policy (e.g., Page and Shapiro 1983;

Published Data .Sozarccs


Jatenzet site: Recent survey results from the Gallup Poll may be
found at <http://www.galIup.corn>. Otl~ersites include the Princetoil Srrrvey Research Center *1http:Nwww.pri~-~~etc1n~edul-ahe1sc~nl
index>, The Qdu~rtXnstitute at the University of North Carolina
<http:l/>, the Roger Center <http://www,rogercenter,uconn,edul>, and the Social Science Data Archives-Nl"ortt-2
Arrterica .=http:llwww,, htrnlz. The National Election S t ~ ~ d i ediscussed
below, may be consulted at
Political scientists also make considerable use of the individuai
responses to surveys conducted by others, thus allowing them to
test hypotl-reses about individual behavior. Indeed, a Iarge part of
the research oil voting behavior in the United States since 19413 is
based on the National Election Studies ( N E S )conducted every two
years by tl-re Institute for Social Research at the University of
Michigan, Data files containing the answers gven by individual respondents to each of these extensive surveys are distrib~zted
through the Inter-University Cansortiurn for Political and Social
Research (ECPSR), an organization to which most uiliversities and
many colleges belong, The TCPSR also archives the results of hundreds of other surveys as well as other data sets, all available in
computer-readable form, The ECPSR representative at a member institution should be contacted for frrrther information, The complete
set of NES survey data from 1948 to 199"7s available on CD-RO:V.

Content Analysis
The sources cited in the previous sections provide information that
is already in the fcjrm rleeded for data analysis s r can be turned
into a data set relatively easily, But often researchers in the social
sciences wish to make use of information structured very differently, such as the text of speeches, news articles, or o t h e r documents, Is it possible to analyze such material in the same objective
and systematic way as aggregate data, including the use of statistical analysis? Xn fact it is.
Textual data can be analy zed quantitatively througl-2 content
analysis. This method has been defined as "any technique fir m~zkirzg
i n f ; ? r ~ rby
~ ~objectively
am! sysztmnticc7EEy identif5ti~zgspecified cCf~7racteristics of messdges" "erelson 19"7it), Content: analysis is mast
ctmmoniy associated with published verbal texts, but can also be used
in conjunction with answers to spen-ended q~zestionson surveys.

Published Data Sozdrces


Content analysis was developed in the early twentieth century

and was first used for the analysis of newspapers, Later it was applied t o propaganda, particularly during World War II. It has
been used by researchers in many fields, including literature, [inguistics, history, cornxnunications, and education as well as all of
the social sciences.. Examples from pc-~liticaiscience include the
analysis of diplomatic messages (North et a1, 1963), speeches by
presidents, and political party platforms (Pomper 19&0),and
countless studies of news media content (e.g., Patterson f 980;
Robinson and Sheehax~$983).
Content analysis is a valrtable research tool that should not be
overir~okedin planning a research project. It is obviausly appropriate and often essential if the research question deals with content
itself, such as the question of whether news coverage of a political
caxnpaign is biased. But content analysis is also valuable as an indirect measure in situations where more direct observational methods camot be used. For instance, we cannot interview the popniation from past generations, but we can systexnatically analyze what
they wrote in speeches, letters, Ilewspapers, and other documerrts.
Content analysis is a datld collection method, not a type of research design. Indeed, content analysis can be used in conjunction
with any of the research designs presented in Chapter 3, All of the
usual stages in the research process apply when ~zsingcontent
analysis, but some deserve particular ernpl-rasis. One is the importance of having a clear theoretical framework, research question,
and hypotheses, These are highly advisable for any kind of research, but they are particularly important wl~enplanning content
analysis, because faiiure to d o so could mean that the whole
process of analyzing a large amount of textual material is wasted
effort, The steps that must be taken in a content analysis are the
same as those in any other scientific investigation, but they have
some slightiy different twists,

Steps in Content Analysis

In the following explanation, content analysis will he illustrated
with the example of a simple research yuestion: Do newspapers
give better coverage to incumbent candidates than to challe~~gers?
This question rnight produce two hypotheses. One is that newspapers tend to give more coverage to incumbent candidates far local
office, and the other is that newspapers tend to give more favorsthle


Published Data .Sozarccs

coverage tct incumbents, These hypotheses csuld be tested with a

correlational design, We would also need to control for other potentially relevant variables, such the party affiliation of each candidate for the eoffices we are studying.

Define the Population

We must first define tl-re population, that is, specify the b o b of
content to which we wiSh t o 6r(?~em&e.In our example, we are
obviously interested in newspaper stories about candidates, but in
which newspapers-air newspapers, all daily papers, only papers
with a circulation over a certain number, papers in a single state,
or only one particular paper? Our decision would be based on the
arnourlt of time and effort we can devote to the content analysis
as well as on how accessible the papers are to us, In tl-ris case we
can, as discussed below, define a Iarge: population-say, all daily
newspapers in the United States with a circulation of over
50,000-and then take a sample of that population-say, a random sample of twenty of those newspapers. Since we are not interested in everything prirtted irt those papers, we must specify
wllat kind of stories we will analyze. For our example, we might:
select all stories about candidates in any general elections for
courltJr offices. Finallj~~
we must specify the time period to he c m ered, In this example, it miglzt be from May to the Novernkr
election in a particular year.

Sele6.t the liecording Unit

The recording unit is not necessarily the same as tl-re unit of analysis that the hypotl-resis would seem to imply. Rather, it is the segFEent of content for which data o n the variables wilE be collected..
Trr this respect, content analysis is s o ~ ~ e w hdifferent
from other
data coIlection metl~ods,because verbal texts can be divided several different ways.
The smallest recordirlg unit in content analysis is the word. We
can do frequency counts on the occurrence of individual words,
such as how many times an individual's name is me.tltioned, However, the context in which a word is used is so important that
longer units are frequently needed. f econd, tl-rere is the sentence (or
possibly the i~ldepelldentclause in a compound sentence). Each
e r variables. P o ~ ~ p e r
serltence could be classified o n a n u ~ ~ b of

Published Data Sozdrces


(1980) used the sentence as a unit in his analysis of Republican and

Democratic platforrns froxn 1948 to 1 976,
The must commonly used recording unit is the item, meailing a
whofe unit of communication. What constitutes an item can vary
greatly depending on the type of comxnunication being studied.
With newspapers, the story is typically selected; in news broadcasts, it would also be the story or sqmsnt. An analpis of television entertainment programs, such as one investigating the axnount
of violence depicted, might well use the program as the recording
unit. Although an item can be of any length, far most purposes
very long iterns, such as whole books, are problematic because of
the difficulty of classifying such large bodies of content,
Another possilsle unit is the theme, A theme is rather bard to define; it might be described as any occurrence of a particular idea
that we are interested in. Themes might be used as recording units
in analyzing, h r example, a single book, but more typically we
woufd record the occurrence and frequency of a particular theme
within each recording unit.
These examples are just a sampling of the ways verbal content
can be divided for the purposes of analysis. The choice of unit depends greatly on tl-re type of content to be analyzed as well as on
the research question to be investigated. In the example of newspaper coverage of local elections, we would select each story about
candidates for coumy office as our recording unit,

Identfi and Operationully Defi~zethe Variables

Next come the variables. In our two hypotheses, the independent
variable is whether the candidate was an i~~cumbent
or a challenger.
The dependent variables are the quantity of coverage and the quality of coverage, But there are several ways to operationalite each,
and we might wish to use more than one.
The qutlntity of coverage is an exaxnple of a st-iuctural characteristic of a message, a relatively objective and unambiguous variable.
We can measure the quantity of newspaper coverage in terms of the
nurnber of words or the 1errgtl-r of the story in coluxnn inches.
Broadcast news stories are usually measured in terms of time, that
is, minutc;s and seconds. The length-of-.story measure we select becomes our operational definition of quantity
In our newspaper example, we might find it useful to measure
other strucrural attributes as well, such as whether the story


Published Data .Sozarccs

appeared on the front page or whether it was accompanied by a

picture of the candidate, We would also need to record wl-rich candidate and office was the subject of the story, and it would be advisable to keep a record of which newspaper it appeared in, the
date, and the page number, if only to rnake it possiHe to check for
errors in data collection. VVe would have to know, preferably in advance, who a11 of the possible candidates were and which were incumbents.
The other dependent variable, quality of coverage, involves the
sgbstarttive characteristics of a message. We might attempt simply
to classify each campaign story as positive or negative toward the
candidate, but tl-ris can be difficult to do, More useful would be
first to specify the catqories we will use to evaluate each story,
After reading a good number of stories, we could identifr the cornrnon categories of commentary about local candidates-experience, persmai attributes, partisanship, and issues, plus the inevitable "iotf-ter.'"ach
of these categories would then be
subdivided into comments that were positive, negative, and neutral toward the candidate in question, We should then attempt to
specify the kind of wc~rdsand phrases that would qualify for each
subcategory, For example, ""hoesty" would be a positive persona!

Sample the Pop# lution

Whetl-rer or not we Ir~okat all of the content in the population we
have defined is a question of how much time and other resources
are available, In our example, we have already decided t o look at a
sample of twenv daily newspapers, hut we might not have the resources to analyze all of the local campaign stories over a sixmonth period, Instead we c m take a random sample of those stories. Randonl sampling is discussed in Chapter S in connection
with survey research, but with content analysis it is usually a simple process, as we usually can identify all of the possible text materid and specify where to find it, In tlze case of these newspapers, we
know that they are published each day, so we could take a random
sample of thirty days from each paper, either by using a random
rlumher table or simply by taking every sixth day. (It would not be
advisable to take every seventll day, as that would give us the same
day of the week every time.)

Published Data Sozdrces

Glkect the D a t ~
We would then be ready to go through the selected issues of the
newspapers. It would be advisable to prepare a form for the data
collection, such as a sheet of payer that lists each variable, including all categories of the quality of the coverage, We would record
that inlormation for each story we found about a local catrtpaignthis is referred to as coding. There are two ways to record the data
on the various categories c>f pc~sitiveand negative coverage, One is
simply to record whether or not there were any rekrences such as,
for exmple, positive comrrtents on experience, Slightly more time
consuming, but more valual>le, would be to record the rlttmber of
rekrences in each category, When we have finally gone through all
of the selected newspapers and csded all of the relevant data, the
information from our coding sheets can be entered into an appropriate computer program for analysis.

Analyze the Data

It is now passible to test our hypotheses. The metl-rods of statistical analysis to be used wilt be described in later chapters, but we
can preview some of' it now. Data prc~ducedby content analysis,
like m y other data, can he evaluated in two general ways. First of
all is frequency analysis, anotl-rer name for univariate sta~istics
(Chapter 4 ) . Tjfpically this entails simply tabulating how often
different variables occur, In our example, frequency analysis
would tell us such things as how much coverage the newspapers
gave to the local campaigns and the extent to which it concentrated on the different categories of evaluation, such as issues and
experience, But CO test our hyyocheses, we would have to perfor~n
contingency anafysis, which is another name fur multivariate statistics (Chapters 8 a1-d 9). Contingency analysis wt~uldenable us
to coxnpare incumbent candidates and challengers on the quantity
of coverage each received, as measured both in the number of stories artd in their length in column inches, as well as the quality, as
rneasured by the number of positive and negative comments each
received. We could also control for the party of the candidate and
the particular office being contested (Chapter 50).These analyses
could be conducted for each newspaper as well as for tl-re sample
as a whole.

Published Data .Sozarccs

Issues in Content Analysis

An inherent problem in any content analysis, particularly that of
the substantive varieth is objectivity. A decisiorz as to whether or
not a particular word or phrase fafis into one of our categories is
often somewhat subjective, that is, it may depend on the personal
j~ldgmentof the person dt.,intg the coding at that moment. Although
this problexn cannot be avoided entirely, there are some steps that
can be taken to minimize it. First of all, this is particularly a problem when several people are intvolved in the data collection. The solution is to have more than one person csde the same subsample of
text and then compare their resuits to see whether they coded the
same material in the same way, The extent of the similarity of their
decisions is called intercoder reliability and can be evaluated by
several statistical measures. Even if one individual will be doing all
of the data colfection, the same approach could be used by having
several other people code some of the same material to see if there
are any subjectivity probfexns. It is also important to make as clear
as possible what kinds of words and phrases should be included in
each category Finally, when the results of the content analysis are
presented, it is important to include as many examples as possible
of how actual statements were coded.
1st using content analysis, as with many other methods of dam
collection, it is val~lableto incorporate data from different sources.
This is particularly important when a content analysis seeks to draw
conclusions about the effects of communications. Thus researchers
such as 13atterson (1980) and Graber (1988) have combined surveys
of individuals with content analysis of the news coverage to which
their responderlts were exposed. Pomper (1380) not only used the
content analysis of party platbrxns to catalog the promises rnade by
the parties hut also used documentary sources to determine the extent to which those promises were fulfilled in later years.

Answers to the exercises follow, It is suggested that you attempt to
formulate solutions before fookirrg at the answers,

Follt~witlgare several variables that might appear in hypotheses.

For each, one, the unit of analysis is given, Your task is to devise an

Published Data Sozdrces


operational definitiorl based olx a published data source, This datca

source should be one that would provide the information for all or
most of the possible cases. The exact data source should he cited
with csmplete bibfiogragflic information. fn order to do this, it is
necessary to actually look at that source to see exactly what informa tion is available.

1. The levei of mass political participation in U,S, states

2. Milit21ry spending of a nation
3. Liberalism of a U.S. representative's voting record
4. Economic development of a nation
5. f uccess of a U.S. president in dealing with Congress

Propose a research design using content analysis that could be used

to investigate the research questions 'Tb what extent have American party platlorxns increased their attention to the problexn of
crime over the years?" a d 'TElave Republican platforms given
mtrre attention to crime than Democratic platfC~rmshave?"

Suggested Answers to Exercises

1. The percentage of the population eighteen years of age and

older in each state castiw votes for presidential electors in
1996. Source: US. Bureau of the Census, Statktical Abstruct of the U ~ i t e dStates, 3998 (Washinrgton, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1998), 298.
2 , Military expenditures as a percentage of each nation" grc~ss
national product in 1996 (or latest year available). Source:
Ruth Leger Sivard, World Military arzd Sockl Expendilures, 1996 (Washington, DC: Wcjrld Pric~rities,19961,

3. The rating given to each representative's voting record by the
interest group Americans for Democratic Action in 1994,
Source: Michaei Barc~neand Grant If~ifusa,The Almanac of
Amertcapl Politics 2000 (Wi;nshington, BC: Nationai
Journal, 1 9 9 ) . (Data on individual representatives are
found throughout the bhook.)


Published Data .Sozarccs

4. The per capita gross domestic p r o d u ~ tJGDP) of each nation. Source: The World Almarzac and Book of Facts,
2 999 ( IWalnvvah, NJ: Wc~rldAimatlac Books), 760-861,
5. Averai&-epercentage total Mouse and Senate concurrence.
Source: t;yn Ragsdale, Vi;taE Statktz'cs
the Presidency,
revised edition (Washington, DG: Congressional Quarterly, 1998f, 390-391. (These data are available only from
1953 on,)

The hypotheses to he tested could he that parties have gven more

attetltion to crime since 1980 than they did in the 1960s and 19";;"s
and that Republican platforms tend to give more attention to crime
than Dcrnocratic piathrms, The unit of analysis would he the Reprtblican and Democratic platforms since 1960, the texts of which
can be found in the annual Congrassictnal Quarterly Alitnnnrlc fsr
each presidential election year and also in tl-re CQ Weekly Report
after each national party convention,
The content analysis could be conducted in several, ways. The
recording unit could be the sentence, in which case one wauld
count the number of sentetlees in which some reference to crime
appears, Alternatively, (me could count the number of times the
word "crime" (m a synonym) aypears or xneasure the length of the
sections deaIi13g with crime (in words, lines, or inches). Whatever
method is used, the measureEnent should be standardized, that is,
computed in comparison to the total number of sentences, words,
lines, or inches, This is important because party platforms vary in
length, generally increasing over the years.
If these data were collected, it would then be possible to calculate whether relatively more attention was given to criine in later
platforms than earlier and whether there was a differelice between
the politicai parties.

Survey Research

Survey research, also called ""polling,'kea~~s

t i l k i ~ ga sample o f a
l ~ q e popuhtiort,
asking qzresgiorrs, arsd recordi~gthe a;rzswers.
Survey research is a such a cornrnon rnetliod of data coIXection-it
is used not only in social science research hut also in political campaiglls and market research-that understanding how it is conducted is valuable for everyone, Survey interviews are used for
large samples of the general population as weil as far specialized
g r o u p such ;I$ hofders of govertlrrtent pr>sitions.The logic of sampling is tl-re same wl-retlzer one is selecting citizens for a survey, laboratory animals for experimental and control groups, or anything

Since researchers are us~talIIyinterested in drawing conclusions
about poyuiatitlns that are so large that it would be impossible to
interview ail of the individud members, they ~zsesamples. People
sarnetimes express doubt that estimates based on only a tiny fraction, perhaps 2,000 out of a population of 209 million, can be accurate, but they usually are. Altkotlgh this is derntrnstrated by long
experience with surveys, such as election predictions, tl-re rationale
far savnplil~gis mathematical, based on probability theory
Suppose you were faced with the task of determining the relative
number of red m d black marbles in a very large basket. Tf you
lcroked at only a single marble, that would tell you very little, If you
started to draw more marbles out of the basket, a pattern would


Survey R wearch

tend to emerge. By the time you had drawn 100 marbles, the percentages of red and black would resemble those of the whole basket. As the sample pew, the proportions would remain fairly constant hut would come closer and closer to the proportions of the
total. For accuracy, however, this process must be free of bias, The
researcher cannot select more marbles of one color on purpose, and
the basket should be well mixed beforehand. Such considerations
are necessary to assure a ""random sample." Note that the results
are a matter vf chance, Even if the basket is evenly divided in color,
it is possible to draw a sample of ten red marbles or even a bunclred, and no black marbles, tkorrgh that is extremely unlikely.
The paint of this example is that if sufficiently Large random samples are taken horn a populatitril, they will rend to approximate the
characteristics of that population. Furthemore, the dis~fibutionof
these samples takes the form of a normal disfl'ibaidkn-a bell-shaped
curve-which allows us to estimate the accuracy of a given sample,
The larger the sample size, the emore accurate the measurement is
likely to be, Table 5,1 illustrates this principle. The column t~eaded
"95% Confidence Interval" &sht>wsthe maximum amouilt of error a
sample would make 95 percent of the time. In other words, for a
sample of 1,000, we could be 9.5 percent sure that a sample would
be off by no more than 3.1 percentage points in either direction. If
we were taking a survey of how people had voted in an election in
which the total vote was 5.5 percent Republican, then a saxnple of
1,000 should almost always come out between about 52 and $8
percent Republican. (On average-----S0percent of the time-we
would expect to not be off' more than about one percentage point.)
Note that the figures in Table 5.1 are based on several assumptions,
the most important of which is that a simple random sample is used.
A frequently asked question is ""How large should a sample be?"
As nc~tedabove, the ailswer is ""the larger the better," "but this requires some qualification. As Figure 5.1 shows, the relationship between sarnple size and accuracy is not a straight line. Increasing the
size of small samples considerably increases accuracy, but the relative gains di~ninishwith larger samples. (This relationship occurs
because the amount of sampling error is proportional to the square
root of sample size,) I-fowever, the considerable costs of survey research are directly proportional to the number of interviews conducted. Hence even well-financed commercial surveys rarely exceed
2,000 cases unless there is some special need, such as a desire to
~ b t a i naccurate trteasurernents for sultsamples of the population.

Survey Research


TABL,E S , I Sample Size and Accuracy

Sample stzc

95% Confidence

NOTE: These figures assuxne simple rarldorn samplir~gfrom an it&nitely large population of a characteristic lzeltl by one-half the poptlfation.

Keep in mind also that the ranges sl-rown in Table 5.1 are what
could be considered the ""maxixnuxn error," that is, nineteen tixnes
out of twenty (another way of expressing 95 percent), the survey
wiII be more accurate than the intervat s h o w . SampIes of a few
hundred or even fewer c m be quite useful for many research yurposes. One factor that makes little difference is the size of the
population from which the sarnple i s drawn. It i s true that a saiinpie of any given size taken from a single city wifL be more accurate
than one drawn from the whole world, bm unless the sample size
is one half or more of the population size, the gain in accriracp is
very small.
Sampling can he dune in several different ways. A simple or pure
rundvm siznzpk i s a sample taken by a inethod ensuring that each
mgnzber of a population has an equal chance of be&wselected, If
we have a list of all of the members of a population, then there are
many ways of selecting such a sample. ff our population is the students enrofted at a particular university, tl-zen we could number
them and use a random llunlber table to select the needed sample;
a csEnputer csuld readily perform the same frznction, The name of
each student could be placed on a slip of paper and the saxnpie
drawn from tbe figurative hat. A variation that produces essentially
the same result is the systemtic sr-znzpk, in which a random start-

Survey R wearch


FIGURE 5.1 Sall-tple size and accuracy











Sample size

ing point is used and then every tenth name (or every hundredth, or
whatever ir-rcrement is needed) is chosen, In short, if a list of the
members of a population is available, it is easy to select a random
Hawevet; if the sample is to be drawn from the general population of the nation, or even h0117 a particular city, such lists are not
available, Becmse of that and other practical considerations, mul~Y
was developed for large surveys using pertistage C ~ B S ~ LsampI2'ng
sonal interviews. Cluster sampling involves sampling of geographic
areas dawn to the city block, resulting in the selection of a nuxnber
of '"clusters" around the country where interviewing is done. Fur
technical reasons, cluster sampling is somewhat less efficient than
pure random saxnpling, so a survey that employs it, such as the
Gallup poll, needs a sampIe of as many as 1,500 respondents to
achieve the accuracy level of a pure random sample of I,OQQ,
Large-scale telephone surveys that use random digit dialing,
whereby tellephoile numbers are randomly coilstructed from the
range of possible n~zmbers,actually use a fcjm of cluster sampii~~g
of area codes and exchanges.
Random and cluster samples arc both probabiIity samples, that
is, ezier3l case in the popcejatiorz has ia know%cltlia~ceof selectiarz, A
number of other methods are used that Qanot meet tl-ris test. In the
"street corner sample99heinterviewer stands in a public piace and
questions whoever will stop, Jn the ""strawpoll," individuals select

Survey Research


themselves to be respondents. One versiorz of the fatter is the practice of encouraging people to pl-rone in to express their opinions.
Neither of these has any guarantee of relative accuracy, and they
are not used for serious research, academic or athewise,
The "exit polls'konducted by journalists on election day, in
which iilterviewers approach people leaving the pc~llingplace, may
appear to be a variation of ""street corner sampling," but they
avoid tile usual bias of chat ayyroacl~in that everyone wl-ro is voting that day (aside from those casting absentee ballots) must leave
a polling place. By sampling precincts and usinrg a predetermined
formula br what proportion of voters should be approached, it is
possible to select a reasona bly representa tive sample. The exit polls
conducted by the television networks since 1980 appear t o be
highly accurate, at least in their estimates of election outcomes.

There are two ways that people can be asked questioils, and each
is commonly done by two different methc~ds,In intervieweradmir~istered surveys, the interviewer reads the question and
records tile response, This can be done in a personal (or Eace-toface) interview, usually in the respondent's home, or over the telephone.
Personal interviews are generally considered to result in a higher
quality of measurement than telephone interviews, Respondents in
personal interviews have been found to be somewhat rnore at ease,
to understand questions better9 and to be rnore likely to express
preferences. Personal interviews can he longer than telephone interviews, and visual displays can be shown to the respondent..
However, personal interviews conducted by going door-to-door are
extremely expensive, and so most surveys in recent decades have
been done by telept~one,Some degree of bias is built into this
metl-rod, since some people do not have telephones, but today tl-ris
is a relatively small problem, Telephc~nesurveys also offer the advantages being conducted more quickly, presenting fewer problems
of access (such as respondents unwilling to open their doors to
strangers), a i d allowing more callbacks to households where 110
one was horrte, in c ~ ~ l f p a r i with
s ~ n personaI interviews.
An alternative rneans of conducting a survey is the selfadministered srarvq, in which the respondent reads the questions
and records his or her own answers. One problem with this


Survey R wearch

method is that a significant proportion of the adult population of

the United States (as high as 30 percent by soxne estimates) has a
low reading level. This mealls that some pote~ltialrespondents will
not he able to resyo~rdat all to a self-.administered questionnaire,
and many otl-rers will be reluctant to do so or not understand the
q uestions,
One method of conhcting self-administered surveys is to mail
the questionnaires out and hope that the respondents return
them. The great disadvantage of this approach is that response
rates are typically very fow. The I o w a the response rate, the
greater the probable bias in sample selection. Those who do
choose to parricipa~einay well be different from tl-rose who do
not; for example, they may he those with more intense feeli~lgs
about the survey's general, topic* Respo~~se
rates can be increased
by including a cash payment or calling respondents to encourage
their participation, but such steps erode the cost advantages of
self-admirristered surveys.
The self-administered survey also has a potential sarnpling problem, In a well-done mail survey, questionnaires are sent by first
class inail addressed to a specific respondelrt. However, since cssrtplete lists ot the general population are not available, the mait survey is not a good approach far this population, Mail surveys can be
mtrre useful in researching specialized populations, such as members of an organized group or occupation. In these circuxnstances a
list of the population is available and those sampled Iikeiy have
greater interest and possi hly a hove-average reading levels, feadirlg
to higher response rates. Even tl-ren, a well-done mait survey requires sending one or more additional waves of surveys and followup reminders to those who have not responded, and the project
will necessarily take several weeks or months.
Another common method o f conducting a self-administered survey is to use a captive pupulatiurz, that is, a group that is assembled
for soxne other purpose and over whom the researcl-rer has some
millimal control. The most common example would be a classroom of stndelrts. People attending a meeting and employees on the
job are other possibilities. The advantage of using a captive population is that it is inexpensive. The great disadvantage is that this
method can never resuit in a random sample or even a representative sample of the whole population, However, it can be quire useful if the research question deals with a specific group whose members are available and willing to filf out a survey questionnaire.

Survey Research

Writing Survey Items

The most critical step in survey research is writing the questions, or
i&ms, to be presented to respondents, There are two basic types of
questions: close~d-ended,in which respondents are given all of the
possible answers, and oj>en-encklrl',in which respondents are given
a more general question and asked to articnlate their own answers.
Most surveys consist of closed-ended items. This is nut because
closed-ended questions are better measurements, but becase they
are easier and less costly to administer, process, and analyze,
The case can be made that open-ended questions are often better
h r xneasuring tile opinions, attitudes, and concerns of respondents.
Most pe[~PIwvvilf make choices on long lists of typical yes-or-no
questions even if they have no prekrevices 017 those topics. But i f they
are given open-ended items, their real feelings can be expressed. The
problem with open-ended items is that it is more difficult far the intenriewer to record the responses and fc~rthe analyst to classify the
responses into categories for tabulation, The latter process is actually
a form of content analysis, discussed in Chapter 4.
Closed-ended items can take a variety of kxrns, with the yes-orno, agree-or-disagree, or other dichotoxnies being tl-re simplest, In
an effort to measure more precise degrees of intensity, more complex sets of choices can be ~zsed,for example, '"Bo you strongly
agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree?" When it is possible to
show visual aids to respondents, various kinds of visual scales can
be employed, in whch respondents indicate where along the scale
their opinions fall, Whatever the format, the answers to a closedended question should meet two criteria: They must be mutanaliy
exclusive and collectzvely exhaustive. In other words, the axlswers
sl-roufd not overlap, and the categories must cover alt possibilities,
so that anyone's opinion would fall into one of them,
There are a number of common prohle~xlsin the csnstructio~~
survey items, These are summarized in Box 5.1 along with
examples and how the problems might be corrected. (Mditional
examples can be ft2und in the exercise at the end of this chapter.)
One of the most important considerations is that respotlitlmts m11st
be competent to answer a question. This means that there is a reasoElable expectation that most of the population to be saiixlyled has
some howledge of the subject matter and terminoiogp to be used.
Asking members of the general public whether they favor passage
of House Resolution 1314 is silly, even if the resolution refers to a


Survey R wearch

prominent issue. However, it is permissible and often advisable to

present a surnmary of a proposal before asking about preferences.
In this way, all respondents are being asked about the same subject.
Another technique is to use a flter questiorr?whereby respondents
are first asked whether they are familiar with a topic, The problem
of competency arises not only with technical knowledge, but even
with personal: knowledge, as we cannot assume that most people
know such things as tfte amount of incorne tax their family paid
last year or the population of their own community.
An obvious requisite is to avoid crsing any binsed or e~fotionali
kangzkiage in survey questio~ls.The choice of wording should be as
neutral as possible so that tfte phrasing of the question does not
sway the respo~ldentto one side. Asking whether the death pellalty
should be used for ""bloodthirsty killers who torture their innocexit
victims" is inappropriate and unnecessary. Although such extreme
emotionalism is ntjt iikely to be used, the problem of bias can be
lntrre subtle when any csntroversial individual or gri~upis unnecessarily introduced into a question, such as associating a political
figure with a substanthe policy proposai,
A common pitfall in writing survey items is failure to avoid leading questions-items that f2il to present all of the possible alternatives. If we ask respondents only, ""Do you agree with this prop o s a l l ' k e are ""leading'9hern into a positive response, F-fence it is
necessary to include phrases such as ""d you agree or disagree,"
"Id0 you f a v ~ r[or oppose,'" "would you say we should or should
lot," Because some respondents are eager to agree with an interviewer, it is especialty irnparcant to xnake clear that negative responses are acceptable, Most surveys do not customarily present
(ino opinion" to the respondent as a possible choice, but interviewers should always be ready to accept it as a response and not attempt to force a choice.
111 survey questions, short and s i m l e items are best, Tf a question
is long and coxnplicated, it is harder for the respondent to understand what is Lteing asked, Admittedly, some topics are more complicated a1-d require more exylartation, hut the solution in such
cases is to set forth the details, in several sentences if necessary, and
then ask a simple yrrestion,
h o t h e r rule is to rrever stutc qmestions in the negative. For exaxnple, asking ""Do you agree or disagree that the United States
should not reduce its contributirons to the United Nations?" is
likely to he csnfusing to the respondent,

BOX 5.1 Rtrfes for Writing Survey

Iterns, with Examples

2 , Respondent must be competent to answer.

Wrc)ng:" D o ycju think Section 14-B of the I947 TaftHartIey Act should be repealed or not?"
Better: ""At the present time, states can prohibit contracts
that require w r k e r s to join a ~znion.Wc3uld you favor or
oppose taking away a state" power to prohibit such

2. Avoid biased or emotiorzal language.

Wro~sg:"Do you favor or oppose the United States continu-

ing to waste your hard-earned tax dollars on foreign aid?9'

Better: " D o you think that the aEnount of money the
United States spends on foreign aid should he increased,
decreased, or remain the same?"

3. "Avoid leading questions.

you agree tlzat there should he term lixnits for
all elective c~ffices?
Better: " D o you agree or disagree with the idea that there
sl-routd be term limits for all elective offices?"
4, Short and simple questions are best.
Wrong: "Would you favor or oppose the idea that all empir~yersbe required to provide health insurance for all
their employees meeting certain minimum staildards,
with the goverrzment providing health insurance klr peopie who are unemployed?"
Better: ""I has k e n proposed that all employers be required
to provide health insurance for all their e m p k e e s meeting certain rninixnurn standards. The government would
provide health insurance Eor people who are unemplcryed.
Wc~uIdyou favor or oppose this idea?

5. Do not state questions in the negative,

Wrong: ""Toyou think the United States should not decrease its invofvernerit in Bosnla or not?"

Better: "Do you think the United States should decrease

its involvement in Bosnia or keep it at the current

6. Avoid unhmiliar language.

TXryo~g:"1s ideological proximity more important in your
electmal decisit~nmakingthan fiscal c~~ilsiderati~ns?~'
Better: "Which is more important to you in deciding how
to vote-how liberal or conservative a candidate is, or
how the candidate stailds on taxes and spending?"

7 , Avoid ambiguous questions,

Wrong: ""DO you favor (12 t)ppOse the prt>ptxal to improve edticatit~n?"
Better: "It has been proposed tlzat all public scllools test
children in the third and sixth grades and the senior
year in high school to make sure they have learned what
they should. Would you favor or oppose this idea?"
S, Minimize threats.
TXryo~g:"Do YOU want to keep black people our: of your
Better: "'Suppose a family who had about the same income and education as you were going to move into
your neighborhuad, but they were of a different race.
Would this bother you or x~ot?'"
9, Avoid dr>ul.tle-barreledquestions.
Wro~zg:((Should Central High Schoof and North HighSchool be merged and the new school be named Central or not?
Better: "'Do you agree OF disagree with the proposal to
merge Central Higlz School and North High School? X I
the two schools were merged, should the new school
t ~ something
be named Central OF NOTPI?

Survey Research


h ~ b v i t consideratit~n
is vocabulary used: Never w e ''big9'
worrl's that w~ukII!be t,nJanzilirlr to the avemgc person. Terms such
as ""ideological," "recidivism," and "philanthropic"' might be appropriate in a college classroom, but certainly not in a survey In almost all cases, Language familiar to almost everyone can be substituted. If a technical term cannot be avoided, then it must he
Ambzguous questions must be avoided, An ambiguous question
is one that could have more than one meatling. This is a matter not
only of tlze wording but aiso of the substance of the qrzesrion. For
instance, asking someone a question using the aphorism that "politics makes strange bedfellows" migl~tcause some respondents to
come up with some very interesting interpretations today. Even a
reference to such familiar phrases as "'Right to Life" a t ~ d"Freedom
of Choice" might be misinterpreted if it was unclear whether the
question concerned abortion, A c o m m ~ t lreason h r ambiguity is
vagueness. It m s t be clear to the respondent just what the question
is about.
Some survey questions may be threatening to respondents;
threafi shotjld be avoided, o r at least mzutivutixed, When asking
a bout whether the respandent engages in socially unaccepta bte
bebavior, such as use of dangerous or illegal substances or exhibiting racial prejudice, there is a risk that the respondent wilt
refuse to answer or, more likely, be less than honest, This problem
can occur with less controversial topics as well. For example, asking whether a person watched the presidential candidate debates
may seem to imply that they were not good citizens if they did
not, The threat in this case could he reduced by asking, "Were
you able to watch the debates or not?" This offers an implied excuse for those who did not watch, and it extracts the same inlormatioil,
A final rule is avoid do~lrk-barreledqmestions. These are i t e m
that ar-tempt to get one answer to two different questions, for example, '90you think that the United States should reduce fc~reign
aid and spend the money on welfare here at homel'TThese subjects
can and should be covered in two separate questions,
Writing good survey irems is a combination of good communication skills and experience, h e way to help ensure that
questions are clearly worded and unlikely to be confusing to respondents is to try the questions a number of times hefore adrnin-

Survey R wearch


i s ~ r i n gthe final: version. f ndeed, in well-do~~e

surveys researchers
ofken select a samyfe of actual respondents far a pretest and conduct a small-scale survey in the same way they proposed for the
actual project. As for experience, even novices can draw clcl the experience of others by looking at questions that have been used in
other surveys, (~Wanyof the sources of survey data presented in
Chapter 4 include the wording of qrzestic>ns.)ff your survey uses
the same wording as another survey has used, you may gain the
added advantage of comparing your results with those from a differerit sample, Even if'the precise topic is not covered in another
survey, similar wording can Often be adopted, This is not to say
that all published surveys, cornrnercial and acadexnic, are well
written, but they offer a good stafting paint fc~rthe researcher in

Following are soxne survey questions, each of which contains one
or more of the common probterns discussed in this chaptea; Identify
the problems in each and then write an improved version of the
question that would avoid the problems.

I. Arenk yyou concerned about the state of the economy and in

hvor of the bcziariced budget amendment?
2. Do you think we should do more to reduce crixne?
3. Do you think that people should be allowed to do things
that are not good for them or not?
4. Do you agree or disagree that we stloufd not get involved in
the situatioil in Kosovo?
5. Do you think that those money-hungry tobacco companies
should be severely puaisl~edfor killing all those innocent
6. Which candidates for county office did you vote for in the
'7, Should the United States use retaliatory tariff barriers tc-,reduce our balance of payinents deficit, or should we rely on
bilateral negutia tions?
8, Do you agree that the death penalty should nc>the used as a
punisl-rment for murder?

Survey Research

Suppose that you wished to test the hypothesis that the more education people have, the trtore liberal they tend tct be on social issues. Propose a research design using survey research to test tl-ris
hypothesis. Uou should specify the type of design you would use,
details of the survey (population, saiirtpling method, sarnple size,
and interviewing inethod), and operational definitions of all variables (these wilf be the survey questions you would ask),

Suggested Answers to Exercises

l. This is a leadirlg question and it is double-barreled Improved: 'V-Iow concerned are you about the state of the
economy today-would you say that you are very concerned, somewhat concerned, or not very concerned at
all?"" "'Do you favor or oppose the idea: of an amendment
to the U.S. Constitution that would require a balanced
budget every year?''
2 , This is an ambiguous question, as there are many proposals
on this topic. Improved: "Do you fa:vor or sppose Icjnger
prison sentences as a means to reduce crime?"
3. This is an ambiguous question, as the respol-rdent would not
know what kinds of ""things" are being considered.. Tmproved: 'T~~outd
it be a gaod idea or a bad idea if smoking
cigarettes were made ijlegal??'
4, This question is stated in the negative and also map raise
questions of coxnpetency to answer, as respondents may
not he familiar with this situation is1 the former Yugoslavia. Improved: ""Asyou may have heard, there is a
section of tile former Yugoslavia called Kosovo, where
most of the people are of Aibas~ianancestry and where the
Serbian government has been accrised of kiIling civilians.
Do you think that the United States should send troops to
try to keep the peace in the area or nat?"
5. The question includes emotional language and it is leading.
Improved: "Would you firvor or oppose imposing heavy
fines on tobacco companies to cover the costs of health
care h r people who smoked cigarettes?"


Survey R wearch

Respondents wouid not be competent to answer this question, because they would probably not remember their
votes, Improved: ""Didyou happen to vote in the election
last November for Sheriff?" "Did you vote I'c~rJohn
Smith, tl-re Republican, or Bill jones, the Democrat?"
7. This question uses unfamiliar language, Improved: What
should the United Seates do about the trade i~nbalancethat
comes af our buying more from atl-rer countries than we
sell to them-should we raise our taxes cm goods we import or should we try to work it out with those countries?
f3, This is a leading qriestion and is stated in the negative, Improved: "Do you agree a r disagree that the death penalty
should be used as a punishment for murder?"


The most appropriate design here would be a correlational design

in wl-rich the independent variable is an individual" education, the
dependent variable is the individual's degree of social Iiberalism,
and control variables are the inrdividnal's age, social status, race,
and religion,
The pvpuiatlon to he surveyed wouid he the adult population of
the United States. The data ctluld be obtained by means of telephone
survey using random digit diaiing with a sample size of 1,500.
The respoildent" seducation would be determined by asking, How
far did you go in school-did you attend high school, graduate from
high school, attend college, or graduate from college? Social liberalism could be determined by askirtg the following questions:
1, Would you favor or oppose adoption af a constitutional
amendment that would make abortion illegal under any
2. Would you favor a r appose making it illegal to discrixninate
against hiring someone because he or she was a homosexual?
3. Would you favor a r appose a constitutional amendment
that would allow prayer in the public schools?
4. T t has been proposed that the US. government make a payment to all African Americans to make up for what they
suffered as a result of slavery in the United States. Would
you hvor or oppose this?

Survey Research


5. Would you favor or oppose stranger laws that would restrict the sale of yorn~grap~ly
The answers to these questions would then be coded as to which
was liberal ( l , oppose; 2, favor; 3, oppose; 49 favor; 5, oppose),
and each respondent h e n would be given a score equal to the number of liberal Rsponses,
The control variables wc~uldbe measured by answers to the following questions:
Age: HOWold are y ~ > u ?
Social status: Wc~ufdyou describe yourself and your family as
generally being in the upper class, rniddle class, working class, or
lower class?
Race: Would you describe your racial or ethnic status as white,
black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian Axnerican,
or Native American?
Religion: Is your religiorz Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or something else?

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An Introduction

Once the observations of tlze variables in a hygotlzesis have been

rnade and assernbied into a data set, the next step in the research
process is to analyze those data in order to draw conclusir>ilsabout
the hypothesis. Mwever, the bits of data are often numerous ir~deed.
This is particularly true in tlze social sciences, wlzere we may have
stlrvey results a n dozens of questions from hundreds or even thousands of respondents. Tb look over such a vast array of data to "xe"
what is there would he a very difficult task, In order to evaluate our
data and determille what patterlls are present, we need statistics.
There are many satistical measures, Chapters 8, 9, and 10 wilt
show you how ta compute several of them. This chapter presents
an overview, hegir-rning with some basic irlformation that is necessary to be able to use any statistical measures correctly.

Levels of Measurement
The term Eevel o f n z e a s u r e ~ ~ erefers
n ~ tc-,the classifications or units
that result when a variable has been operationally defined. There
are three levels of IneasureInent with which you need to be familiar: nominal, ordinal, and interval data.

The ""lowest" Ievef of measurement, that is, the feast precise, is the
nominal level. 12 rtominal variable simply places each case into one

of several u~orderedc~tegories.Examples would include an individtlalk raclallethnic stattts (African American, wl-rite, Hispanic,
Asian, Native American, or other), religious preference (Protestant,
Catholic, Jewish, none, other), and vote for president (Clinton,
Dole, Perat, other, nut voting), Note tkat it would make no sense
to describe such variables in quantitative terms. Ti, speak of "'more
religion,'"^ "more voting" 'from data t ~ nthese mearace,'"'Eess
sures wauld be silly, Marninal variables contain inforrnation on
"what kind," not ""hc>wmuch,"

As the name implies, ordilzal variables rank cases in relation to

each other. This can take two fc~rms.The first, mnk order, puts the
cases in exact order according to svrne characteristic. For example,
we could rank states in order of population, with California being
first, New Ycxk second, and so on. Note that these rank values do
not carry as rnuch ir~formationas the actual population figures on
which they are based would, A state that is railked tenth in population drxs not have twice as trtan)r people as the state ranked
twentieth. Rank order is not rnuch used in analysis for research
pwposes, In order to get an exact ranking, we usually would need
numerical measures of the actual quantity of the variable. These
would be it~&rz~al
values (discussed below), and it is preferable to
treat such variables as interval, In the rest of this hook any references to ordinal variables will mean ordr?red catggoYiesr the more
common form of an ordinal variable.
With ordered catqordes, variables are put into categories-as
are noirtirtal variables-h~zt the categories have an inhererst order,
This could be done by taking a variable for which numerical (interval) data are available and grouping the cases into categories,
For example, states could be grouped by population into categories such as aver 10 million, 1 rnillian to 10 xnitlion, and under
I million. Note that this sheds some of the information originally
available, Ordinal category variables may also come directly from
rneasures tkat do not have interval precision. For example, survey
respondents might be ranked in social class by asking them if they
consider themsefves to be upper class, middte class, or wt~rking
litllike nominal variables, ordinal variables, whether rank order
OF ordered categories, may he described in quantitative terms. It is

proper to say that some cases in a data set have more education
tl-rall others, even tl-rough education is measured only in tenns of
grade school, high schr~ol,or college,
Jn determining whether a set of categories may be considered as
ordinal, it is imyortmt to rexnetnber that all categories xnust fir a
pattern of high to iovv (crr low to high) on the variable. The census
categories of sccupation (professional and managerial, clerical
and sales, skilled xnanual, and unskilled manual) could be used as
an ordinal measure of social status. However, tlie addition of the
categov of "farmers and farm laborers'kould render the level as
only nominal. The addition of residual categories such as "dc)ri3t
know," "not ascertained," or ""other" will always cause the ordinal quality to be lost, fn actual practice, this problem may he
avoided if the researcher is willing to exclude all such cases from
the analysis.

The highest Ievel of measurement is the interval level. An i n ~ r v a l

variable provides an exact rlurnher of whatever is being measured.
This xnay be an actual count? for example, the total number of
votes received by a candidate in a district or a person" annual income. Or it may be a st;'zndardized form, such as the percentage of
the district voting Wernocratic or the average income of families in
a state, This means that not only may ir-rterval variables be described in quantitative terms ("the higher the income, the lower the
percentage Wexnocratic" "j but also exact comparisons may be
made. For example, the dirference between $5,000 and $10,000 of
income is the safBe as the difference beween $I 0,000 and $15,000.
There is also anotl-rer, similar level of measurexnent called a m~r'o
s a l e , As the difference between interval and ratio levels is rarely
importmt in social statistics, it will not be discussed here.
Box 6.1 provides a number of examples of variables and their
level of measurement. Exercise A at the end of the chapter provides
additional examples for you to test your understanding.

Using Levels of Mm:turement
These three levels of measurement are relatively simple concepts,
though which level applies in some actual cases may be debatabie,
But the application is coi~pticatedby the fact that there are two

BOX 6.1 Exampies of Level of Measurement

Interval level;
* Gross national product (in r~illionsof U S , d ~ l l a r s )
* Voter turnout (as percentage of voting age population)
e Perceiltage Ga tholic
* Years of education
* Crime rate (number of crimes per 100,000 population)
e Seniority in the Senate (as of this writing, Senator
Strorn Thurmox~dis first, etc.)
* Level of econoxnic development (developed, newly industrialized, less developed)
* Age ( Z 8-20,2 1-39, 40-59, 60 and older)
* Opinion on dekrlse syendiw (increase, keep at present
level, decrease, eliminate entirely)
* Ideology (very conservative, somewhat conservative,
middle of the road, somewl~atliberal, very liberal)
Moxnina l:
e Region (Northeast, midw west, South, West)
* Farm of goverIIment (democrat).; monarchy, military
authoritarian, marxist, other)
e Source of political infc~rmation(television, radio, newspapers, r~agazines,talking to others, n o ~ ~ e )
* Party preference (Republican, Democrae, independent,
other, noile)
* Opinion on gays in the military (allow, not allow, no

rules that allow variables tc-,be treated as other levels under certain
Rule I is that a tlavirzble may always be treated its a lower lezlel
of measurement, This means that an interval variable rnay be
treated as ail ordinal or nr~nzinalvariable, and an vrdiilal variable

as a nominal variable, Thus, the percentage of a state" vote that

went to tl-re Democratic candidate, an interval variable, could be
used to put the states into rank order from most Democratic to
least Democratic, States csuld also be put into ordinal categories,
such as aver 60 percent Democratic, SO percent to 60 percent Democratic, 40 percent to 49 percellt Democraic, and so on, 3% treat
a l no changes are needed; one simthese categories as n o ~ ~ i n data,
ply ignores tl-re fact that tl-rey l-rave an orderIn applying rule I, it is critical to keep in mind that although
you may go down in level of measurement from interval ttr srdirlal to nominal, it is not permissible to go up, that is, to treat a
nominal variable as ordinal a r an ordinal variables as interval.
There is uile exception to that statement, and it constitutes the
other rule,
Rule 2 is that a dichotomy may be treated as a ~ z ylevel of measurement, A dickotomy is a variable that has two and only two
possible values or categories. An example would be a perso~l'sgender (female or male), assuming that there were no cases in which
that infamation was missing, A state could he classified as having
a Republican or a Democratic governor. This would be a dichotomy as Long as no state had an independent a r third party gavernor, But if there are only two possible categories into which any
cases can fall, the variable inay be treated as interval, ordinal, or
nominal, regardless of i t s substantive concent. Thus, rule 2 might
be expressed as "dichotomies are wildm-in the card-playing sense,
of course,
In order to take advantage of rule 2, it is common for researchers
to modify their data tc-,create dichott3mies. The motivation for this
is that the statistics that can be used only br interval variables are
more powerful than those for ordinal and nominal data. Hence, for
example, the ethnicity of individuals might he condensed from the
nominal set of categories of white, African American, Hispanic,
Asian American, and other into the dichotomy of wl-rite and nonwhite, In political analysis it is common to collapse the regions of
d i c h o t o ~ ~ 50y,
the United States into a S~uthern/Non-Sc)t~ther~l
phisticated multivariate analyses sometimes create what is called a
&mmy variable by using each categclry in a nominal variable, such
as religious prefere~ice,to create new dichotomous variables-for
example, Pratestantmon-Protest nt, CatholiclNon-Cat holic, and
SO on.

Box 6.2 provides some examples of the application of these two

rules, as does Exercise B at the end of tlze chapter,

Why LeveL of Meusuremmt Are Important

The reason it is so important to be able to identif.y the level of measurement and correctly apply the rules is that each of the many statistics designed far data analysis makes assumptions about the variablesqwel of measurement. If you use an inappropriate statistic to
evaluate your data, the results may be ~neaninglessand lead you to
draw erroneous conclnsit>ns, This is something to bear in mind
when using computers in staeisticaf analysis. The coxnpmer programs we use to calculate statistical values do not know what the
content of your variables is and therefore caxlnot determine what
statistics should be used. Since it is common to enter all kinds af
data as numbers, the computer will readily treat any variable as interval data, even though the numbers may represent arbitrary
codes for naxninal categories. A variable such as region may be
coded 1 for Northeast, 2 for midw west, 3 for South, and 4 for West.
To compute the ""average region" would be senseless, hut a sk~tistical program will do it if you request it.
Therefr~re,always be aware of the level of measurement of your
variables and of what leveIs the tvvo rufes will aiXow you to treat
them as. As noted earlier, you may choose to modify a variable,
such as by collapsing it into a dichotomy, tto take advantage of rule
2, Most computer programs can do this for you autctmaticaf!y.

What lls ~ S~ati~tic-7

As noted at the start of this chapter, in social science research we
are often faced with the task of looking at a large collection of observatio~lsand trying to see what patterns are present. Such a task
would be diff"icrtlt.and in many cases impossible if we did nor have
statistics to assist us, A statistic may he defined as a nur~ericatmeasgre t/?at summarizes some characteristic of a larger bod$i of dcntil.
That is why statistics are useful, They can reduce very Large
amouilts of information, such as the census of the United States, to
single numbers that convey information we need.
Statistics are found in everyday life, and everyone uses tlzem. The
most common statistic is the total, such as the total population of
a nation or the total amount of Enolley in one" pocket. Anather

BOX 6.2 Rules far Using Level of Measurement

and Exampies sf Their Application
Rule k '""own, Bttt Not Up": A variable may always be
treated as a Eower level of measurement (is., interval may he
and ordinal may be treated as
treated as ordinal, or nof~ir~aX
a nominal. But never treat a variahle as a higher level.

Rule 2: ""r>ichotr>miesAre Witd" A dichotomy-a varia hle

with only two possihie values-may be treated as any ieve) of

Percentage of a nation's budget spent on defense: This is an

i~ltervalvariable, so it could also be treated as ordinal or ncminal (rule l f.
Party competition in a state f highly competitive, less competitive, one party): This is an ordinal variable, so it could also be
treated as x~ominal(rule l f .
NATO membership (~nemkr,mnmember): This is a dichotomy,
so it could be treated as nominal, urdir~al,or interval (rule 2 ) .
Form 01 municipal government (strong mayor, councilmanager, cornmissinn, other): This is a ncjminal variable and
not a dichotomy, so it could only be treated as nominal.
Level of education, variation I (grade scl-rool, some kigl-2
school, high school gmdtrate, some college, college graduate): This is ordinal, so it could also be treated as nominal
(rule I f .
Level of education, variation 2 (grade schtlol, some high
school, high school graduate, some coliege, college graduate,
trade scbooi, stilt in school, unknown): TI.ris is a x~orninal
variable because clre addition of m y of the last three cacegories deprives it of its otherwise ordinal quality, Therefore,
it can be treated only as x~orninal,

Population density (number of people per square mile): This

is an interval variable, so it could be treated as nominal and
ordinal as well (rule 1).
Legislator's vote oil bill f yea, nay): This is a dichotc.>my,sc.3 it
map be treated as nominal, ordinal, or interval (rule 2 ) .

common statistic is the proportiorz, which can be expressed as a

decimal, a fraction, or a percentage, Ra&s are also a familiar statistic, such as miles per gallon fclr automobile fuel consumption.
The average, the term mast people use for tl-re arithmtt3tZc mean, is
a well-knom statistic. Uewed in this way, the subject of statistics
is not an exotic undertaking, hut simply an extensiorl of a tool you
have been using far years, Since scientific research goes beyond
sirnple descriptioil and attempts to analyze relationships and test
hypotheses, you will need some new tools in your toolbox,

All of the examples of everyday statistics cited above are gniuariate, that is, they describe characteristics of one variable at a time,
Since most readers already have some knowledge of them and since
scientific research is usually concerned with multivariace questions,
the discussion here wilf he brief,

Measures of Cmtml Tendency

The mast familiar univariate statistics are measures of central tendency-r,
as they are cornxnonly called, averages. There is a measure for each Level of measurement. Each one is way of describing
what the "'typical" ccas in a set looks like on some variable.
The best known is the mean, or arithxnetic average, which can be
computed only for interval data. The mean is computed by adding
up alt of the individual values and dividing by the number of cases.
A, similar measure is the median, or "middle" value in a distribution: Half of the cases have higher values and half have lower values. Technically, a inedian can be determizzed froin ordinal data,

but it is usually computed for interval values. Suppose we have a

very small town of five farnilies and their incarnes are $2,000,
$2,000, $3,000, $4,000, and $89,000. The meail family income for
this town wo~zldbe $20,000, but the median would be only
$3,000. In cases such as this, with highly skewed distributions (i.e.,
where there are some extreme cases, which can geatly affect the
mean), the median is often considered to be a better measure of
central tendency, In this example, the median income of $3,000
better describes the typical family than the mean of $20,000. But it:
should be remembered that the mean actually includes more information than the rnedian.
A measure af central tendency that can be applied even to naminal data is the mode, which is simply the most frequently occurring value or category fn the example above, the mode would be
$2,000, Modes are not very useful for inrerval data, especially
when the values have a large potential range, ~Vodesare sometimes
useful for describjng orditlaf category or nurni~taldata. For example, the modat ethnic category in the U.S. is white, because inore
people fail into that category than any other.

Another characteristic af a set of observations is the extent t a

which they are dispersed, that is, l-row closely- or widely cases are
separated on a variable, Measures of dispersictn can be cc~mputed
only for interval data, We could have two distributions of sbservations with the same mean and rnediall that are very differem from
one another, For example, to take t w more very small towns, one
might have five families with incssrtes of $2,000, $2,000, $20,000,
$38,000, and $38,000, and the atl-rer five families with incornes af
$18,000, $19,000, $20,000, $38,000, and $38,000. In both cornmunities the meal? and the rnediar? income is $20,000. But in the
first cornmunitgr, income is dispersed over a wide range, whereas in
the second the incomes are mtlre similar tc-,one ailother,
The simplest rneasure of dispersion is the mlsge, which is simply
the difkrerlce between the highest and the lowest values. In the first
town the range is $36,000, and in the second it is $4,000, The
range is not a very usefut measure, however, because it is so easily
affected by the presence of even one extreme case, There are inore
sophisticated versions such as the guartike range, which is half the
difference betweeri the values of the cases that rank one-fourth and

three-fourths of the way between the highest and lowest scores, But
even this sort of Ineastire is not as precise as one xnigbt wish.
The most common measure of dispersion is the standard devzatz'on, which is based 0x3 a summation of the differexice of each case
from the mean, Although tl-ris is sometimes useful as a measure in
itself, it is most commonly used in performing certain tests of statistical significance,

The Concept of Relationship

As sl-rauld be clear from earlier chapters, scientific research is ustially concerned with multz'vavht~:questions-the relationship between two or more variables, The concept of relationships between
variables was introduced earlier, but x~owwe will see what such relationships look like. In order to do this, we must first understand
how data can be assembled to view possible relatir>nships.

The way data on two nominal or ordinal category variables are

customarily presented is by use of a cross-tabulation, or contingency table, This is a table showing the frequencies of each comhix~ationof categtjries on the two variables. Coxistructing one is simply a process of counting tip how xnany cases fall into each
combinatioil, Box 6.3A shows a set of "raws3data and the resulting contingency table. 1st this example, one woufd first go through
the data and count up how many males voted Republican, then
how many females, and so on,
Contingency tables are often presented in terms of percentages.
This can be done in several ways; the percentages might add up to
100 for each column, ii>r each row, or for the elltire table, However, it is usually clearest for the reader if the fotlowjng conventions
are followed: ( 1 ) Let the independent variable define the columns
and the dependent variable define the rows, ( 2 ) Compute column
percentages by dividing the frequency of each cell by the total for
that coluxnn. (fl this is done, the percentages for each coluxnn will
add up to 100,) Box 6,3B shows a contingency tahle with raw frequericies and their percentages in proper form, Note that it is desirable to include tl-re N, which is the number of cases on which
each set of percentages is based, The variables and categories
should also be clearly iabeled.

BOX 6.3 The Contingency Table

A, Constructing thc Tabfc
Contingency T3blr:
Male Female
VOTE Republican:

B, Expressing the Table in Terms of Perccnttlges

Male Female
Male Female
557 423
Republican: 56 % 42%
439 586
Democratic: 44
100 %, 100 %,

To show interval data in a contingency table would not make much

sense, as there would have to be rows and columns for each of the
individual values of the variables, and most cells would have a frequericy of l or 0.Instead, reiationships between two interval variables are shown in a scattergram (also called a scatterplot), Box 6,4
gives an example of a small set of interval data and the resulting
scattergram, Note that the ehorizrr~fialaxis is a l w y s z-rsed fix the irt-

BOX 6.4 Constructing a Scattergram


$ z 0,000
$3 l ,900



Median Incaxne ( $ 1 000's)

dependent variable and the vertical axis for the dependent vanable.
70 construct this scattergram, one would first go acmss the horizontal axis to the value of the independent variable-income in rl-ris
case-and then straight up to the height of the dependent variable--percent Republican--and at that intersection place a dot

indicating the positisn of the case. When this is done for all cases,
the result is a scattergram, (In some cases, nuxnbers or letters identiityiag the cases are used instead of dots.)

What Doo- u Relationship Look Like?

To say that there is a relationship between two variables implies
that the cases are not distributed randomly, hut rather that there is
some identifiable pattern, With ordinal or interval data this can be
described in quantitative terms; for example, the more education
one has, the higher one's income tends to be, Relationships between nominal variables may be described in terms of contrast between categories, for example, that Catholics are more likely to be
Democrats than are Protestants, But the different types of possible
relationsl-rips can best be illustrated with contingency tables and
sca ttergrams.
Box -6.5attempts to do this by shswitlg what contingency tahles
and scattergrams would look like if there were absoluteiy no relationship between two wriables as compared with a "'perfect" rerelationship, which cart take either a positive or negative fonn with
ordinal and interval variables. Consider part A for noxninal variables. m e r e there is no relationship, the percentage colum~lsin
the contingency table are exactly the same. As one moves across a
row, tl-re figures do not change. It makes no dit-tierence in this hypothetical data set whether a persc-~nis Protestant, Catholic, or
Jewish; 37 percent of each religiuri is Republican. Religion would
be of no value in predicting a person's party affiliation. On the
other hand, the example of a perfect relationship shows a different
situation entirely, All Protestants are Republican, all CathoIics are
Wexnocratic, and all Jews are independent. This xneans that we
could perfecrly predict a person" party identification by knowing
his OF her religion.
I he same is true of the examples for ordinal variables in part B
of Box 6.5. The no-relationship example shows that each educational group has exactly the same income distribution. But in the
example of a perfect positive relationship, all individuals who went
to college have a high income, those who went to high schc~olall
have a medium income, and those who went only to grade school
all have a low incoxne. Therefore, for this ilypotl-recical data set, we
can say that tile more education a person has, the higher his or her
income, and one variable csuld perfectly predict the other, In the
v T

BOX 6.5 Examples of No Relationship and

Perfect Relationships

No Iielarionship
Prot Cktj? feu)




Perfect Iielarionship





100% 10001, 100%

Correlation = 0.00

L 100
IOfb% 100% 100%
Currclation = 1.00

R, Ordinal V~ria61es
Pcrfecr Relatiotlships

Na Relationship
m C O M E C d HS
-30% -30% 30% Hi
100% 100% 100%
Correlation = 0.00
P P -

Col HS
100% 0% 0% Hi
0% 0% 100%
0 100
0 100 to\v10O
100% 100% 100%
100% 100% fO0%
Correlation = + 1.00
Currclation = -1.00


Perrcntage Urban

Perfect Positive Relationship

Perfect Negative Relationship

Percent Urban

example of a negative relationship, tl-re predictability is again perfect, but in the opposite direction. In this unlikely exaxnple, all college people have low incomes and ail those who went only to grade
scboof have high incomes.
In part C of Box 6.5, scattergrams are presented for a pair of interval variables. In the no-relationship example, the cases are randomly distributed with no patterzl. In the example of a perfect positive relationship, all the cases fall on a straight line, so it is clear
that the more urban an area, the higher the Democratic percentage
of the vote, This wouM allow us to compute the equation for that
scraigfic line and therefore predict the vote for any case from its urbanization score (how to 40 this win be covered in Chapter 9 j. The
same is true in the negative relationship example, except that the

line slopes downward, indicating that the more urban an area, the
less Wexnocratic its voting pattern.

Three characteristics of a relationship between variabkes can he

summarized by statistics: stre~zgth,dkection, and significrlnce, Jt is
critical to understand the difkrence between tlzem.

Strength ofa Relationship

The s t ~ n g t hof a relationship is a measure of where the relationship falls between no reiationship and a perkct relationship. It can
also be thought of as a relative rBeasure of how good a predictor
the independent variable is of the dependent variable.
There are many statistics designed to meclsure strength of association. These are commonly called correlatiuns. (A nrlmber of them
are summarized below in 'Table 6.1, and several are presented in
detail in Chapters 8, 9, and 10,) Although these statistics are designed for difkrent c s ~ ~ b i n a t i o of
n s levels of measurement and differ in their sensitivity to various aspects of the distribttcion of the
variables, they all have two things in common, First, if there is absolutely n o relationship between the variables, they will have a
value of zero. (However, soxne define ""no relacionship" a little difkrentliy than others,) Second, if there is a '"gerfect" relationship, all
will have a value of one, though it might he either pius one or
rninus one, depending on tlze direction of tlze relationship, as discussed below Thus, for example, the "no relationship" tables and
graph in each part of Box 6.5 all would have a correlation of exactly zero, using any of tlze many measures of strengtl-r of association. The ""perfect relationship" tables and graphs would each have
a correlatic~nvalue of plus one or rr.linus one, depending on
wlzetlser the relationship is in a positive or negative direction.

Direction of u Relationship
The diwctiovt of a relationship is a simple concept, Jt alswers the
question of what happens to the dependent variable as the independent variable increases. If the dependent variable also increases,
then the relatioi-rshipis said to be positive, If the dependent variable
decreases, the relationship is negative.

Direction in this sense applies only to ordinal or interval variables. A purely nominal va ria ble, such as an individual's religious
preference or ethnic it)^, cannot he said to increase or decrease. The
direction of relationships as indicated by statistics computed on ordinal category data is completely dependent on the order of the
columns and rows, In the example in part I3 of Box 6.5, reversing
the order of the colu~nnson education or the rows on inco~ne(httt
not both) would reverse the plus or minus sign for any correlation.
That is one reason why it is always important to look closely at the
contingency table, preferably one in terms of percentages, before
drawing conclusions a bout relatiolls between categorized variables.

The term significdlzce has a special meaning in statistics. Significance refers to the probability that ca retattonshii~between variiables
could h ~ v occurred
by d a m e irr.a rartdom s a ~ ~ p lift ) there
between them in the p o p ~ l u t i ofiom
~ which the sample was dwwn. Recall f%omthe discussion of survey sampling in
Chapter 5 that even properly taken samples are a matter of chance.
For that reason, there is always a confidence interval around an estimate made from a sample, The same idea applies to relationships
between variables in sample data, though it is expressed differently.
The probability of a relationship occlrrring by chance is, essentially, the probability that one might make a mistake by drawing
the conclusion that the relationship observed in the sample is true
of the Larger population. Therefore, the smaller that p r o b a b i l i ~ ,
the more signifisan$ the relafl'onship. In most social science research, if the probabilit), is .05 or h s , the% the relationsh@ is s a d
t u be s z g n i f i ~ ~ $There
are quite a nuxnber of significance tests,
some of which are listed below in Table 6.1 and several of which
are covered in detail in Chapters 8, 9, and I Q. But the .O.T lezjel of
sigrziJicavrce lapplks t o all signjlicance tests, This, incidentally, is the
same thing as the 9.5 percent level of confidence cited in the discussion of survey sampling in Chapter 5.
It is important to re~nemberthat szg~zificancetests sliouM be zdsed
only if the data are fiom a random sample, If the data are from a
sample that has not been selected by one of the appropriate rnethods described in Chapter S, then significance tests have no validity
But what if the data are not from a sample at all, but constitute a
whofe population, such as all fifty U.S. states or all I Q0 Senators?

Then signiticarxcr: tests, while not necessarily inaccurate, are unnecessary If there is even a very weak correlation between two characteristics of the fifty states, then we can be sure that it exists,
though it may not be of any importance.
As will becorne clear when you learn how to conduct surne significance tests in iater chapters, the significance of a relationship is
determined by two factors: the strc~gthof the correlcation and the
sample size. The stronger tl-re correlation between two variables,
the less the probability that it was a chance occurrence and, therefore, the more significant it will be. But it also depends on how
large the s m y l e is. The same degree of ritrerigth might he significant in a large sample, but not achieve significance in a small sample. It is important to keep this in mind when interpreting data,
whether in analyzing your own or reading the results of another
person" rreearch. In large samples, such as surveys with over 1,000
eases, even very weak relationships map be "statistically significant," ever1 though they are of littfe substantive importance,
With a11 of this background, we can now take a Look at Table
6.1, which summarizes a number of (hut certainly not all) the statistics designed to evaluate relationships. All of these are biwriate
scatistics-they evaluate relationships becween two variables. TI~ere
are also statistics that deal with the relatioilship between three or
more variables, but these are al! extensions of Pearson" rr,so the
same assumptions and interpretations apply, These statistics are
discussed in Chapter 10.
Table 6-1 can be useful when reading the results of someone
else's rreearch and encountering m unfamiliar scatistic. It can also
he useful when analyzing data using a computer program that offers a wide choice of possible statistics. But it is highly inadvisable
to use a statistic with whicl-r one is not familiar, There are many
details and variations that a simple summary like Table 6.1 cailnot

For each of the fclllowing variables, identify the level of measurement (nominal, ordinal, or interval).

I , Opinion on legality of abortion (always, only under certain

circumstances, never).

TABL,E 6.1 Cornrnc~nUivariate Statistics

Level oJ
N easzdremenf

Measz-zres of

Tests of



T k o noxntnal

Thc ordinal

Two interval
One nominal
variable and
one intavaf


Cramer" V

if tocl.0

MendafPs Taug
Mendati's Tau,

-1 .0 to 4-1.0
-Z.if to + 1.0
-1.0 to cl.0


-l .O to c l ,O *F-test


if tocl.0

0 to+l .O
Vt) to+ l .O
if tocl.0

of Means

*Statistics covered in detai! in Chapters 7, 8, and 9.

2. Outcoxne af a congressional vote on. a bill (pass, faif),

3. Nuxnber of irregular executive transfers in a nation since
4. Previous coionial power (Britain, France, Spain, other,
S. Size of largest city (Over 1 million, 200,000 to 1 million,
less than lOO,OQOf.

Far the examples in Exercise A, apply rules 1 and 2 and identifii aSI
of the levels of measurement the variable could be considered as,

incf udirrg the original: level,

Below are data on religion and turnout for fifteen people, Far these

1. Construct a contingency table showing the frequencies,

2 , Present the table in terms of percentages, using proper form,
3. Draw a conclusion about the relationship between religion
and turnout for tl-rese individuals,













Codes for briables: Refigion: f3 = I)rotestant, C = C:achofic, j = Jcwisl~

Turnout: V = Vc?ter, N = Nctt~voter

Suggested Answers to Exercises

1. Ordinal
2. Moxninal
3, Interval
4. Nominal
5. Ordinal

I . Ordinal, nominal (rule 1 )

2. Interval, ordinal, nominal (rule 2 )
3. Interval, ordinal, nominal (rule I )
4, Nominal (neither rule applies)
S. Ordinal, nominal (rule 1 )

Frequency sable
Cath Jew
lvumout: Voter

Percentage ta hie
Cath Jew
67% 100%
100%) 100% 180%~

3. There is a relationship between religion and turnow in chat

Catholics have higher turnout than 13ratestants, and Jews
have the highest.

This page intentionally left blank

Graphic Display
of Data

Popular media such as n e w s p a p e r ~ n dmagazines frequently use

graphics to report the distribrrtion of resufts in some form of picture-a chart or graph instead of (or in addition to) reporting the
relevant numbers. The purpose of these graphic displays is primarily to convey important characteristics trtore effectively than a verbat description or table of numhws would be able to do, The use of
graphics bas increased markedly in the past decade, primarily hecause of the ease of constructing and printiilg graphs and charts
with widely available computer programs.
This chapter has t w prgrposes.
The first is to illustrate how to
construct several common types of graphics. while avoiding inany
common mistakes. The second is to explain how to interpret
graphics you might ellcounter in your reading-and nat be mislied
when others make the cofrtfrton mistakes,
Construction of graphics may seem simple to do with a coxnputer, but doing it correctly involves undersranding concepts covered earlier in this book, includi~lgthe distinction between independent and dependent variables and tlie three levels of
measurement discussed in Chapter 6, Since many people who pr~t
graphics into their articles, reports, and papers are not familiar
with tliese concepts, the grapl-rics that result are frequently meaningless or even misleading. Graphic displays of data can be very
useful, both for conveying infornation to the reader and for re-

searchers to better understand their data, (The scattergram described in Chapter B is particularly useful for this latter function,)
But from the standpt~intof scientific research, two disclaimers are
in order. First, graphics of the type preserited in this chapter can almost never present information as complete as a numerical table
can-and generatly they present much Less, Second, reports of scientific research such as those found in scho1arIy journals gerieraily
do not use these sixnple grapl-rics. This chapter provides only a fimited introduction to the topic. (A brief yet comprehensive treatment
of the subject c m be fou11d in Wallgren et ale 1996.)

Graphics for Univariate Distributions

The simplest use of graphics is to display the distribution of cases
on a single variable such as the proportion of people who belong to
different religions, Typically what is being graphed is a nominal or
ordinal category variable or a variable that has been made into
one, such as by placing individt~alsYncornesinto different ranges.
Such variables can be visually displayed in several ways, such as pie
charts and bar charts.

Pie charts are circles that are divided into segments representing different categories, the relative size of:the segment being proportional
to the frequelicy of the categov. Figure 7.1 is an example (all of the
figures in this chapter were produced by Microsoft Excel). Often
different colors or shadings are used to distinguish the categories.
Mtlaough pie charts are frequently found in newspapers, magazines, and similar popular media, they are really not very useful,
Most readers have trouble making a precise comparison of the size
of circular wedges. For this reason, it is comInon to it-rciude the
exact nuxnbers or percentages in tl-re pie chart-but tl-ris is exactly
the same information that would he presented in a simple numerical table. A nrtlllber of authorities on graphic presentation advise
against using pie charts (e.g., Tufre 1 983, 178).

A more useful method of displaying category fi-equencies is the bar

chart. Here the relative frequency of each category is represented by

FICiliRi-, 7-1 130pularvote for president, 1996

Rtchard Al. Scammt>n,Mice V. McCitiivray, and Khodes

V i ~ t e svol.
22, Wasl~ington,13C:: Congressional
Quarterly, 1998, p. 13,


M ,Cook, America

the height: of a bar. The bars are usually vertical, but may be horizontal. Bar charts are somewhat superior to pie charts in that most
people can xnore easily cornpare the simple lengtlzs of bars ar lines
than the relative sizes of segments of a circle, btlr again the iniormation communicated is less precise than would be a simple reporting of the actual frequencies, especially in terrns of percentagcs.
Therefore, the bar chart, too, may we11 include the precise numbers.
If a bar chart does not include the precise frequencies, then it sl~ould
present a scale on the vertical axis, as was done in Figure '7.2. Unfortunately, such charts in popular media often fail to do this,

Graphics for Multivariate Relationships

There are a nuxnber af ways the relationship between two or mare
variables can be shown graphically, One is to use the bar chart.
Here the different bars represent different categories of the indcpendent: variable, and their heights represent: the dependent variable, Hence, tl-re independent variable must be a norninal or ordinal category variable, and the dependent variable either
frequencies-----whetheractual numbers or percetitages

FIGURE 7.2 X30pular vote for president, 1996

souacr,: Ric-hard M, Scalni~~on,

Atice V. hfcGillivraj~,and Rhodes

Cook, Anzerzlla Votes, vol. 22. Wa sfiington, DC: C:ongresstonat

val variable. Figure 7.3 is an example. As with the univariate bar

chart, showing the exact nrlrnerical value of the height of the bar,
or at least including a scale, is desirable but unfortunately is not
always done.
Bar charts can also be used to illustrate the relationship between
three variables. These charts use bars whose height represents the
frequency for interval value) of the dependent variable for each
cornbillation of categories of the independent and control variables. (It does not matter wl~ichvariable is tl-re independent and
which is the coiltrol variable,) Such charts could he constructed
from the results of corttroiliq usizg contirtp~cyt~bles,which is
discussed in Chapter 10, This approach could be extended to any
number of independent and/or control variables, but the results
would be very hard for the reader to interpret. Figure 7,4 is an example of a chart showing the effects of controlling.

Line Gruphs
Another method of illustratir-rgthe relationship between an interval.
dependent: variable and an ordinal category independent variable is

FIGURE-,7.3 Reportcci voter turnout, by ethnictry; 1996



African Arncrican


Center for Political Studies, L996 National ELection Study.


the line graph, Essentially3 a line graph is the saiiBe as a bar chart,
except that instead of using a bar to represent the value of the dependent variable, a single point takes the place af cl-re top of each
bar, and then the points are connected with a line. Although line
graphs can be used where the independent variabk categories are
nominal (such as ethnic groups), it is best reserved for instances
where the independent variable is ordinal. The line graph is prekrable to the bar chart when there are so many categories of the independent variable that a bar chart would be conftzsing, Therefore,
line graphs o h n are used to display data over a iengthy time period, Figure 7 3 is an e x m p l e of a line graph. Note that line g r a p h
sl-rauld ?;rotbe cc~nfgsedwith scat~ergrcams(Chapter 6 ) and the line
connecting the points in a line graph should never be ~07.tfgsedwilFh
the rqrsssion line (Chapter 8).

How Not to Lie with Graphics

How to Lie with StatiStics w u l f 1954) is a famous hook first published nearly half a century ago but still available, Its purpose is to
show how the popular media-par tic dart^.. advertising-frequentiy
rnislead the reader tl-rrough tlzeir presentation of quantitative data,
and frequently involving graphics. The kinds of problems I-fulf
cited, whether committed intentionally or by mistake, are all the

FIGURE-,7.4 Reportcci voter turnout, by ethnictry and cciucation, 1996




College High School rimerrcan I-Ilgh School
XIl& School

sor1,tci.: Center for Political Studies, L996 National ELection Study.

more common today, (A receilt attempt to make the same point can
be found in Almer 2000,) It is important to he aware of these errors, both to avoid making them oneself and to prevent being misfed when Looking at tl-re work of otl-rers.

The Miislng Zero Point

Perhaps the most frequent problem with bar charts and line graphs
is that the vertical axis either does not go dawn to zero or part of
the axis is omitted. The effect of this is to exaggerate the contrast
between different categories of the independent variable. For example, if we were to draw a graph or chart of the budget of soiBe
government agency over several years, and the budget increased
from $100 million to $105 million, then a correctly rendered
graphic would show what it should-that spending increased only
very slightly, However, if we were to place the horizontal line that
showed the years nat at the zero doltars point on the vertical axis
but at the $95 miliion level, then the graph would at first sight give
the impression that spending had doubled over this period. If we
omitted any specific numbers or scales, the graph would he completely misleading, Including the numbers would ~ ~ a the
k egraphic
technically correct, but it still might rnislead tl-re casual reader. Figures 7,6A and 7.6B show an example of how such a gaphic should
and should not be constructed,

Graphic Display




FIGURE-,7.5 Turnout of voting-age population in prcstdcntial elections,

1960-1 991;






K. Abrtlmson, J o l ~ nH, Altlrich, and l3avid W. Rhode,

C h a ~ g earzd C:onthzdit~~
t ~ zthe 2 996 and 2 998 EEections, Washington,
13C: CC) Press, 1999, p. 69.

Sc;.ule~and Axes
Line graphs can also he misleading because of problems with how
the hr~rizontaland vertical axes are defined. Assigning the ixldeyendent and dependent variables to the wrong axes can be a major
problem. When the independent variable is erroneously shown on
the vertical axis and the dependent variable is erroneously shown
a n the horizontal axis, the relationship between the two variables
may appear completely the opposite of what it really is. Relationships also may he distorted if the range of possible values for one
variable is sl~ownin a much sl-rorter length than that used for the
other varia hie,

13ictorialsare graphics similar to bar charts, except that rather than

simple bars whose length represents the value of a variable, a picture of some object is used, such as a sack of grain, a dollar sign, or
a person, Pictorials are rlever used in scientific reporting, hut they

FIGURE-,7.6A U.S. per pupil spending on ed~rcation,1990-1 996correctly presented

U,S, Bureau of the Census, Statktical Abstract

Urzited States, 1998. Washington, LX:, 1998, p. 298,




are found in popular media and advertising, They are particrrlarty

likely to he misleading because the picture size is proportional to
the variable" value nat only in lzeight but also in widtlz, and sometimes in depth, Thus if one category of the variable has a value
twice as high as another, its picture would give the impression that
the value was four (or even eight) tirxtes as great, And since these
pictorials are sometimes presented with no specific values or scales
attached, the reader would have n0 way of detecting the misrepresentation.

The Need for Standardization

The x~eedfor standardization was de~nonstratedin the discussion
of operational definitions in Chapter 2. Whenever we are presenting data on aggregates, suck as cities a r states, the measure is likely
to be meaningful only if it is presented in some way that is standardized, usuaily to population, such as percentages or per capita
figures. Since most geaphics present aggregate data, this is particularly important. A bar graph showing the total number of crimes
comhtted in different states might give the impression that Cali-

Graphic Display of Data

FIGURE-,7.6R U.S. pcr pupil spcrldtng on cciueadon, 1990-1 996incc~rrectfypresented

U.S, Rureacr of rhc Census, S;tatbtz"clalAbstract ofthe

U~zE'tedS;tages, f 998. Washington, DC, 1998, p. 298.


farnia and New York are far more dangerous places to live than
smaller states, whereas the same chart based on crime rates f i x . ,
crimes per 100,000 population) would show trtuch less diflerence,
and small states would not always I-rave the Ir~westrates.
The same principle holds when our unit of analysis is time (i.e.,
comparing different time periods), because population sizes
change. But when dealing with variables measured in dollars or any
other unit u l currency, we also need to control far inflation, A
graphic showing the incomes of my U.S. population gri~upin different years will generally show a significant increase over time, but
that would be largely the result of decreases in the value of the dollar every year for many decades, Therefore, resyo~~sible
(or verbal presentations of the same information) always present
these figures in terms of consunt dollam, that is, the amounts are
ad~ustedfor inflation.

Principles for Good Graphics

Aside from avoiding the errors noted above (it is assumed that you
would not want to mislead anyone), what are the rules for using
graphic displays correctly and effectiveiyi

The purpose of a gaphic is to convey certain characteristics of data

to the reader more effective15 and this is best done by making the
graphic as sixnple as possible. Large numbers of categories in pie or
bar charts are apt to be confusing. If a large number of categories
are rlecessary fc~rfull presentation of the data, then a table i s a better choice tl-ran a chart or graph, Extensive verbal expianations in
the body of a graphic shc~uldhe avoided, as should unnecessary
arwork, hncy borders, and the like. If' you are printing a graphic
such as a pie chart or a segmented bar chart where categories m s t
be distinguished by their appearance and it is not possible to print
them in diflerent colors, then dif'ferent shadings must he used. But
keep the shadings as simple as possible, avoiding the use of crosshatcfning.

Although unnecessary wordirlg within a graphic sho~zld be

avoided, some use of words is essential to any chart or graph.
Witlain the graphic, it is essential that the variables be clearly Xabeled, including the uilits in which they are measured. Every
graphic should have a titfe above it specifying what the graph is,
again including the variables. Finaily, if the data are nut generated
from the research you are presenting but are from another source,
that source should be ideritified, ~zsuallyon a line below the
graphic. The same rules, incidentally, also apply to any nuxnerical
tahles you present.

Describing the the Tewt

Too often graphics are tl-rrawn into a paper with little or no discussion in the text, There sho~lldalways be a description of the
table, including the conclusioil that the author wishes the reader to
draw. 117 same circles it is a maxim that every table, chart, or graph
that appears in a scientific report ought to have at least a page of
discussion. Although a page may be more thall is always necessary,
certainly a paragraph i s needed, If there is nothing to be said about
a graphic, then one would have to question wl-rether it is really
worth iilcluding.

Jf you have more than one graphic, it should be fabeled in its

title (e.g., Figure 1)and then specific reference can be made in the
text to that figure so that the reader will be Looking at the appropriate picture. Again, these comments apply to tables as well as to
Belr~wis a table sl-rowing tile frequency of poverty in different e h nic groups in the United States for several years. Design and produce two appropriate graphics (either by hand or on a computer)
illustrating ( I ) the relative frequency of poverty in ethnic groups in
1996, and (2)tile change in the frequemy of poverty h r tile whole
population ("'A11 Races") from 2976 to 1996 For each graphic,
write a verbal description of what appears to he happening.

Persor~sBelow Poverty Level 1976-1996 (percentages)


A El




U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the
brrrited S t a t e , 3 998, Washington, DC, 1998, table '7.56.

Find an exaxnple of one of the types of graphics described in this

chapter from a newspaper or magazine, Evaluate tl-ris graphic-is it
misleading in any way? Are there any details or inbrmation that
should have beer1 includedWas there an adequate discussion in the
accompanying text (if any)? Could you suggest a better type of
graphic to present this information?

Suggested Answers to Exercise A

status, 1996

Percentage of persons beiiow poverty Isvci, by ethnic




,sertjXce: Bureau of the Census, Stagistical Abstrac~ofthe Ufzzted

States, f 998, Washington, DC', 1998, p, 477.

FICiliRi-, 7-24 13ercenrage of persons be1tj-w poverty level, 1376-1396

of the Census, S&tistical Abslract of the I_ilzited

States, 1998. Washington, DC:, 1998, p. 477.

Nominal and
Ordinal Statistics

This chapter presents detailed explanations of several measures of

strength of association (correlations) and one test of significance
appropriate for contingency tables with nominal and ordhal variables. Students sometimes wonder whether it is practical to learn
haw actually to compute such measures; after all, computer progralrts are almost afways used for the task, There are two reasons
why it is useful to have some familiarity with methods of computation. One is that you may occasionalty find yourself looking at a
simple frequency table for which it itlight be quicker sittlply to
compute a statistic by hand than to enter the data into a computer,
The more important reason, however, is that knowledge c>f how a
statistic is defined and computed provides a deeper understanding
of its meaning, wlzich is valtrahle in understanding how to apply
and interpret it correctly.

Correlations for Naminaf Variables

Lamkrdla (2)is a correlational statistic that measures the strength of
assocktion between two nominal variables, TXierefore, it may be
used for any contingency tabie, according to rule 1 for the use of
levels of measurement. The range of possible values for lambda is
from O to +I,that is, h a m nu relationship to a perfect relacionship.
Therefore, a value of lambda that results in a negative number or a
r~urllhergreater than 1 is a resutt of an error in cs~tlputation.

TAamhdameasures proportional redtaction of error; that is, it

measures how much better one can predict the value of each case
on the dependent variable if one knows the value of the independent variable. The formula for l a ~ ~ b dis aa simple one:
Lambda = b

where b is the nuxnber of errors one would make in predicting the

value of each case a n the dependent variable if one did not know
the value of the independent variables, and a is the nrlmber of errors one would make when the value of the independent variable is
'This is a simple idea, but it can he a Little tricky at first. Consider
the c~ntingencytable below Since we will need the marginal row
totals, they are included with the table,







Suppose we had a group of l56 people and k~levvnothing abr~ut

them except the overall distribution of their votes (the raw total4
from tl-re table above. Ef we had to guess haw any given individual
voted, it would be best to guess that he or she voted for Glinton,
We would be correct on the 76 who did vote for Clinton, but
wrong on the 6.5 who voted for Dole and the 15 wl-ro voted far
Perot; this would he a total of 80 errors, which is therefore the
value of b. But then if we take account of the indeperident variable,
religion, and look within each column of the table, we can xnake
another set of predictions using the same method as before. We
would predict that each Prr~testantvoted for Dole, as that is the
best- guess, but- we would be wrong on the 39 Protestants who
voted far Glinton and the 10 Protestants who voted for Perot. We
would predict that aII Catholics. voted for Clinton, but ws~uldmake
errors on tl-re 16 Catholic Dole voters and the 4 13erot-voters. Similarly, we would predict that all Jews voted for Clinton, hut he
wrong on the 2 who voted for Dole and the I who voted for Perot,

Adding up a11 of these errors made within the religio~lscategories

(39 + 10 + 16 + 4 + 2 + l),we arrive at a total of 72, which is the
value of a. We can then use the formula to compute larnbda:
Lambda =b

80-2 8
= =.IQ


The value o f . 1 sl~owsthat there is some relationship, Knowing a

person" religion improved our predictiorr by 10 percent, This is a
relatively weak relationship, Brtt note that in comparison to soirte
other correlations (particularly gatrtma, discussed below), values of
lambda tend to be low,
Certain other features of lambda should he kept in mind. First of
all, iambda str~rtetimeshas a value of zero evexi though there is a relationship between the variables. Consider the following table:

VOTE Democratic


If you were to compute lambda (you might try this for practice),
the value would prove to be 0, The reason is that the largest number of voters in each gender category voted Democratic, even
though it was to a very different degree. Whenever all categories of
the independent variable have their greatest fi-eyuency in the same
categov of the depedent variable, larrrhda will be zero.
Second, Eambcia is asy~~unetrtc,
that is, it makes a difference
which variable is considered the independent and which the dependent variable. For instance, if we used the data from the first example to try to predict a person" religion from his or her vote, we
would find that the value of IIambda was Q, This is ant>ther reason
one shouIct always set up a contingency ta hle with the independent
variable defining the columns and the dependem variable defining
the rows.
Third, Eanzhda must he confpzated fronf a table with " r a z ~ ' '
Jreque~cies,not from a table expressed in percentages. This is
because a table expressed in terms of column percentages will
weight each column equally, even though that was not the case

for the raw data, Therefore, using a percentage table will ~zsuaflg
result in an incorrect answer,
Box 8.1 summarizes the critical informatioil about lambda and
provides another example of its computation, Additional examples
can be found in the Exercises A and B at the end of the chapccr,
Goodman and Krrrskalk tau-h (z,J is similar to lambda. It uses a
method of prediction that will riot fail tct detect certain relationships, as sametirnes occurs with lambda, Phi is anotlzer statistic fur
measuring the stretlgth of association between two nr~minalvariables. It is discussed in detail later in this chapter,

Correlations for Ordinat Variables

Suppose we have a table with only two rows and two columns, and
both variables are ordinal. (Actualt);;since bat11 variables would be
dichotr>mies,this could be any two-by-two table,) One way tc-,evaluate the strength of the relationship would be to csmpute a statistic called Y ~ l e kQ, The formula Eor Yule%Q is:

where a, h, c, and d are the frequencies in the h u r cells of the table

arranged as shown below,

High Low
High Low
Low c
Thus, to mmpute Yule's Q, one would simply multiply together the
two diagonal pairs of cases and then divide the difference between
these products by tl~eirsum. Using the frequencies in the table on
the right, the computation would be:

BOX 8.1 Lambda and an Example of Its Computation

Statistic: Zamhda (h)
Type: Measure of association
Assumptions: Two nominal variables
Range: O to +l
Interpretation: 13roportional reduction of error

Notes: Lambda is asymmetric. Tt should be computed only

from raw frequencies, nor from percentage tables.

Lambda = b7


b = number of errors in predicting the dependent variable

when the independent variable is not known.
a = number of errors in predicting the dependent variable
when the indeprildent variable is k~lown,

Example: State Party Competitbn, by Region



NortJ? &lid
East West SOU~J?West (Totals)

Conclusion: There is a definite relationship between region

and party competition. States in the Midwest tend to have
high party competion, while states in the South are the most
likely to l-rave low competition.
If all tables had only two rows and two columns, Yule's Q could
be used every time, Rut since marry tables are Larger, we need to use
a statistic such as pmma. Yule's Q is actually a special case of
gamma and was presented first in order to show how gamma depends on the extent to which cases are clustered along one diagorial more than the other.
Gamma (y) is a correlational statistic that measures the strength
of association between two ~rdiinalvariables. It has a range of possible values from -1 t<>+ g , with riegative values indicating a negative relationslnip Ltnd zero indicating no relationship. Althawgh it is
not apparent from the computation procedure, the value for gamma
may be interpreted as the proportionate reduction in error of prediction of one variable by the other, as was the case with lambda.
Unlike tambda, gamma is symmefric, that is, it does not make a
distinction betweeri the indeperident and Qeperident variables.
Gamma lney also be cumpziteci!fiom percentage t.rzlik.s,The answer
will be the same whether percentages or raw frequencies are used.
The formula for gamiBa is;:

where P is the number of pairs of cases consistent with a positive

relationship and Q is the number of pairs inconsistezlt with a positive relationship.
The idea of "consistent pairs" and "inconsistetlt pairs" "requires
some explanation. Consider the following table.


bIigi9 Med Low

Hi@ Med Lout



Medl'gnt J



Mecfigm 3



I f there were a perfect positive relationship, every case that was

higher on the first variable than another would also he higber on
the second variable. Such comparisoils are therefore "c~~nsistei~t"
with a positive relationship. They would include a coinparison of
the higwhigh cases on each variable (cell a) with all of those in cells
below and to the right (i.e., cells e, f, h, and i), Cells h, d, and e also
have cases that are lower on both variables (i.e., helow and to the
right on. t l ~ etable). We are not realty interested in individual comparisons, hut only in how many such comparisons could he made;
the n~zmberof such pairs can be calculated by multiplying the frequencies in each pair of "cansistent" cells and adding up the total.
In the example for income and political interest, the calculation
would be P = 6(8 + S + 7 c 9) + 4(5 c 9) c 3(7 + 9) c 8 ( 9 )= 350.
The number of ""inconsistent pairs" is the nuxnber of coxnparisons u l cases that are higher on uile variable but lower on the
other, fn the exanlpfe above, cell c is iower olx variable 1, but
higl-rer on variable 2 tllan ceits Q, e, h, and g, Celts b and f also
may be compared to cases that are inconsistent, that is, below and
to the left, Again, the total number of inconsistent pairs would be
compu~edby xnuttiptying the frequencies of atl of such pairs and
summing. In the income-pc.,iitical interest example, the calculation
w o u l d b e Q = 1(3 + 8 c 2 c 7) + 4 ( 3c 2 f c S ( 2 c 7 ) c 8f2f = 101.
13utting tl-rese numbers into the formula, we have:
P - Q 350-101 249
= 4-53
Gamma = P + Q - 350+101 -451

The value of .SS indicates that there is a xnoderately strong positive relationship between income and political i~lterest;that is,
people with higher incomes tend to have more political interest.

T h ~ l sthe c s ~ ~ y u t a tof
i ogamma
is the saEBe as that of Yule's Q
except that there are more possiHe comparisons. Note that whenever Q, the number of inconsistent pairs, is greater than P, the number of consistent pairs, the value of gamma will be negative*
Garnma, Like laxnbda, has some drawbacks, One is that it ignores
instances where there are "ties," that is, where cases are the same
on one variable but difkrent o n the other. The effect can be seen in
a table like this one:


Hi& Law

The value of gamma for this table would be a "perfect'" +l,even

though the relatiollslzip might better he described as a weak one,
For this reason, a similar statistic, Kendall"S.a~-6, may be used,
Kendail's tau-b is essentially the same as gamxna, but it adjusts the
value to take account of ties. The computed value of Kendall's taub will usually he iess than but never greater than the value of
gamma for the same table.
Box 8.2 s u m a r i z e s the critical information about gamma
and provides another exafnple of its computation. Adctitional
examples can be found in Exercises A and B at the end of the

Chi-Square: A Significance Test

The most cornmonly used test of significance ior concillgency tables
is chi-square jlC9).Since it assumes that the variables are rzt>mi~znE,it
is a h y s appropriafe as far as level of measwement is concerned,
However, like all significance tests, the results are meaningful only
if tl-re data come from a random sample,
Unlike any of the other statistics we have presented, chi-sqtxare
has a range of O to N, where W i s the total number of cases in the
table. This would make chi-square difficult to interpret, except that
we rarely make use of the chi-square value directly. Rather, as we
will see below, another step is taken to determine the associated

BOX 8.2 Information About Gamma and

an Example of Its Computation
Statistic: Gamma jy)
Type: Measure of association
Assumptions: Two ordinal variables
Range: -1 to +l

Interpretation: Proportional reduction of error



of pairs of cases consistent with a positive

Q = number of pairs o f cases not consistent with a positive

I$ = number

Exztmpfe: Vocer turnout, by age



01der 50-59 4 0 4 9 30-39






Conclusion: This indicates that there is a rnoderately weak

positive relationship beween age and turnout. The older
people are, the more likely they are to be voters.
probabiliq-which is always the end product of a sigllificance test.
Chi-square must be comgated from raw fiey~enczes,not from a
table expressed in percentages.
The formula for chi-square is:

where f 3 refers to the observed fieqtrency of each cell, that is, the
numbers in the table, and fe refers to the expected freqgency of
each cell, which is explained below, Sigma (C) is the summation
sign, which indicates that one should perform the operation that
hllows for each of the cells and then add up the results,
To make this a little clearer, consider the example given in Dt~x
8.3 showing the relationship between race and voting for a sample
of 100 people. (The row, coluxnn, and table totals are shown because they will he needed in the computation,) The observed f ~ e quencies
are the number of cases each cell would contain if
there were no relatz'tznship between the varkbles, given tl-re existing
totals for each row and each column. In this table it is easy to see
how the expected frequencies are determined, Since the overall distribution of the vote is split evenly between the parties, a perfect
nonrelationship would mean that both racial g o u p s were evenly
split as welt.
In most tabtes, the value of tl-re expected frequencies is not so obvitrus. Although one could take the proportion of torai cases in
each c o h n and then multiply it by the column tcttal, a quicker
metl-rod tl-rat achieves the sane result is this:



= (row

total x column total) t table total.

BOX 8.3 Compura~onof Clni-Square

Observed Frequencies
NorzWj3il.e white (total's)








Expected Frequencies
NoniVhi~c:white (to~als)

(58) VOTE Kej>.












(6 P













5 0 ~ " 71./(10=35









For the upper left cell in the example (wl-ritelRepubiican), the

computation would be fe = (50 x 70) i 200 = 35. The results for
the other mIls and the remaining steps in the table are shown in
Box 8.3,
Setting up a table like that in Box 8.3 is recoxnmended when
computing chi-square. In step 1, the observed frequencies from the
original table are listed, fn step 2, the expected frequencies are
cornpured as si~own.In step 3, the difference between the first two
columns is calculated. (Note that the (fc,- fe) column in srep 3
must always total to zero.) 117 step 4, the values in the previous cslu r n are squared Nhich has the effect of eliminating the xninus
signs), In step 5, the squared values from the previous column are
each divided by the value of fe from step 2 in that line. Finally, srep

6 entails tcrtaling the values in step 5, which produces the value of

chi-squt~re.In this exaxnple, chi-squt~reis 4.76.
As noted earlier, the value of chi-square does not mean much
in itself. In order ttr determine the prob~bility,it is necessary to
consult a prc~babl'lity of chi-square table, a version of which is
reproduced in Table 8 - 1 , Before looking up the value of chisquare in the table, though, one more calculation is needed: The
degrees of freedom (do in the original table must be computed.
This is done by multiplying the number of rows minus one by the
x~umberof columns ininus one: df = (r - l f (c - I f . In the above
exampfe, in which the table has twr) rows and two columns, the
calculation is as follows: df = (2 - 1) ( 2 - I ) = 1,
This means that we look to row I in the degrees of freedom
columr~on the left side of the table, F r t ~ ~there,
we look across
the table to see where our chi-square value of 4.67 would best
fit. We see that it falls between 3.841, which is in the .OS coltirnn,
and 5,412, in the .02 column. This means that the probability (p)
associated wit11 our chi-square value is between that for 3.841,
which is .OS, and that for 5.412, which is -02; hence .Q$ > p z
.02. Recalling the discussion of significance in Chapter 6, we can
conclude that this reiarionshiy is significant because the protlability of such a relationship occurring by chance in a random
sa~npleis less than .05.
When using a probability of chi-square table, you may sornetimes find that the chi-square you h a w calculated is larger than
any value in the appropriate fine, This means that the probahility is less than the lowest probability found in the table. In Tabfe
8.1, this would mean that p <r ,001, which is highly significant.
Similarly, if the calculated value is less thart any value in the appropriate fine of tl-re table, the probability is greater than the
highest probability shown and is therefore not significant.
Even when there is no relationship in a table, it may not be
pclssi ble for observed frequencies to be exactly eyuai to expected
frequencies, because the observed frequencies cannot be frractionat values. When the number of cases is large, this problem
will make no practical difference. But- when the expected frequmcy for a cell is small, that is, less than five, some inflation of
chi-square is possible. For that reason, an alternative method,
such as Fisher3 exact test, or a correction of chi-square for continuity, can be used, IMany statistical computer programs provide
this when x~eeded,


TABLE 8.1 Probability of Chi-Square

Probability I.eue1.c

Degrees qf
















































NOTE: Larger tables including bigl~erprobability levels and more degrecs of frccdarn rnay bc found in marly comprehensive statistics texts,

Ronald A. Fisher and Frank Yates, Statistical Fables for Rioiogical, Agricultural, and Medical Research, Sixth Edition (Editlkurg1.t: <>Liverand Uoyct, 1%63), p.47. @l<.A, Fisher and F, Yates,
Reprinted by pcrrnissiorl of karson Edueadon, X~tmited.


Box 8.4 summarizes information about chi-sqrrare and provides anotl-rer example of its computation. Additional examples
rnay he fuund in Exercises A and B at the end of the chapter,

AdditiarzaX Correlations for Nominal Variables

A s inentioned earlier, phi (@li s another correlation for no~ninal
data. Phi assuxnes tlzat both variables are nominal, so it can be used
with any contingency table. The range of possible values for phi is
O to + 1 for tables up to 2 x 2 (see the cominent in col~tlectiol~
Cramer's V below). The interpretarioa tor pl-ri is that its squared
value (phi2)is equal to the proportion of variance i~zone vilrinble
e z p l a i ~ t ~byd the otl?er, a csncept that is explained in Chapter 13, Indeed, for a 2 x 2 table, phi has the same value as the interval correlation Pearson" r (if one treated each dichotomous variable as interval. and assigned numbers to the categories). Plzi i s symmetric; it
makes no difference which variable i s independent or dependent,
Phi can be computed in a number of ways, but the following simpie formula may he used if chi-square has already been co~nyuted:

where W i s the total nrlrnber of cases in the table. Recalling that the
maximum possible value of cbi-quare i s N, note that phi2 is the
ratio of the actual value of chi-square to the value it would have if
there were a perfect relationship between the two variables.
Note that the formula calculates phiL (the squared value of phi).
One can rake the square root to obtain phi. However, p h i q s often
reported, since it is equal to the proportion of variance expiahed.

BOX 8.4 Information About Chi-Square and

an Example of Its Computation
Statistic: Cbi-squxe


Type: Significance test

Assumptians: Two nominal variables; random sarnpling
Range: Q to N, where N is the total numher of cases

fo = observed (actual) frequency for each cell
fe = expected frequency for each cell

Nore: Ghi-square must he computed from raw frequencies,

not frtm a table expressed in terms of percentages.
Example: Form of city government and crime rate

Form of City Government

Strong C0~4nc1'1
Mayor Manager C017.ir17.irissi0~ (TotaEs)








19~14/4S=5.91 7-.5.91= 1.09

1 9f 6145~6.Z
9-6.76~ 2.24
16?~14/4.5=3.73 2-3.73~-1.73
44.00= 0.00
12xf 6/45=4.27
6--4,2"7 f -73
14~1414.5-4.36 S-4,36= 0.64
14~15/45=4.6";74.6"7" 3.33
f 4,915;;-3.915

df = (3 - l ) f S- ) = 2

(l.09f2=1.19 l.19/5,91=0.20
(-3.33)'=ll.f113 1t .f15316.33=0.57
f2,24)'= 5-02 5*02/6.76=0.74
(-1.73)'= 2.99
(O.OO)'= 0.00
f 2.73)" 22.9 2.99/4.27=0.70
(0.64)" 0.41 0.41/4.36=0.09
(3,33)'=ll.f153 1t.f15314/98=2.37
f-3.98)'=15.80 15.80/3. f "73. f 7

7.79 < Chi2 9.488

. l 0 > p > .05

Conclz~siorz:Since the probability of chi-square is greater than .OS, it is not

considerect significant, Wc cannot conclude that thcrc is any relationsfiip
bctwecn form of city gavcrrlrncnt and thc crime rare for thc urholc population Eroi1-t which this sail-tple is drawn.

Jn the previous exampIe for race and voting, the computation

w w l d be phiL = chi-square t N = 4.76 c 100 = 0,048. 'This shows
that race explained a little less tl-ran 5 percent of the variance in
voting. Although this is not an impressive figure in terms of
strength of association, it- must be emphasized that phi, like
lambda, tends to X-rave relatively low values, particuiarly compared
to statistics like gamma, The value of lambda br the racelvotirtg
table is 0.24, and gaiiBma would be 0.45,
One problem with pl-ri is that far tables larger than two rows
and two columns, it is possible for phi have a value larger than 1,
Therefore, a number of statistics have been devised to adjust phi
to avoid this difficulty. One of these is Criamer"sV, calculated as

where Min(r - l , c - I f means the number of rows minus one or

the number af col~lmnsminus one, whicl-rever is less, In the
racelvoting example (a 2 x 2 table), r - 1; and c - 1 are both equal
to 1, so V = phi, and this computation is unnecessary
Box 8.5 summarizes the information about Phi and ayplies it to
the example horn Box 8.4,

Interpreting Contingency
Tables Using Statistics
As stated earlier, statistics are a tool far helping us interpret our
data. Bivariate statistics, such as those presellted in this chapter, tell
us something about relationships. But what different statistics teII
us can be confusing.
measures of association or correlations (such as lambda,
gamma, and phi) tell us something about the strength of: a relationship. But what is considered to be a ""strong" association and
what is a "Mienk" association? There is no simple answer to that
question. Although some authors have suggested ranges, such as
defining a gamma value af -7% or greater as ""very strong," d-rese
ranges are arbitrary. Furthermore, there would have to be different fists for every statistic, Although the statistics have varying
mathernatictll interprettltions, clre best approach for the novice is
to think of them as relative measures of strength. This can he
useful if one is comparing several relationships between similar
pairs of variables, such as the correlation between tl-re attitude af
individuals on the abortion issue and their votes in several presidential elections, thus facilitating a decision as to whichrelationship was the strongest. But it is important to rernernber to make
direct compari;aclns only of he same statistical measure. Comparing a gamma value with a lambda value, for e x a ~ ~ p l is
highly likely to be misleading,
When using ordinal statistics, such as gamma, it is very important to be aware that the order in which the categories q p e a d n
the rows and columns will determine wlletl-rer tl-re value is positive
or negative, which shows the direction of the relationship. All of
the examples in this chapter have the hhighest values of ordinal variables in the tap row and the !eft coluxnn, thus ensuring that a pasitive reiationship will produce a positive value h r gamma. But tables are not always set up that wait., particutarly when produced by

BOX 8.5 Inhrmation About Phi and

an Example of Its Computation
Statistic: Phi (@)
Type: Measure of association
Assumptions: Two nominal variables

Range: Q to 1 (for a 2 x 2 table)

where N


the total number of cases in the table

Example: For the data in Box 8.4:

Conclzasiun: PhiQshows that 20 percent of the variance in

crime rate i s exptained by the form of city gaverrtnnent. This i s
a moderalely strong relationship,
Since the table was larger than 2 by 2, Cramer's V
would be a more appropriate measure. V" 0.20 + 2 = .10

coxnputers. Most statistical programs will put the first or lowest

value in the left column and top row, and that will often be the
code for the Lowest actual value (e.g., age might be coded as 18-29
years = 1 , 30-49 years = 2, etc.). To prevent this problem, always
look cczrefully at h e cont%~gency
&Etlee One c m then see what the
direction of the relationship appears to be and what a positive or
rlegative value of a correlatio~lwould rBean.


Using the data on educatiorz and ideology in the following table,
complete itexns 1-1 Q.
Some Circzdc
C:ollege Grad
H,S. School

I. Present the table in terms of percentages, using proper Eom,

2. Is it appropriate to compute lambda for these data? Why or
why nut?
3. If appropriate, compute lambda.
4. Is it appropriate to coiByute garr.lma for these data? Why or
why not?
S. If appropriate, compute gamma,
6. What assumptions would have to he made to use chi-square
as a test of significance for tl-rese data?
7 . Compute chi-square and determine its probability. Is this
8. Is it appropriate to compute phi for these data? Would
Cramer" V be a better measure?
9. if appropriate, compute phi.
10, On the basis of all af these computations, draw a conclusion
about the relationship.

Usirtg the data on incsme and vote in the following table, csmplete
items 1-3 0 from Exercise A.



For each of the following pairs of variables, identily all of the foifuwing statistics that would be appropriate: lambda, gamma, and phi.

I , Opinion on welfare spending (increase, keep the same, decrease) and defense spending (increase, keep the same,
2, Largest minority group (African American, Hispanic, Asian,
Native American) and crime rate (high, medirtm, low)
3, Social class (upper, middle, working) and vote (Republican,
Democrat )
4. Dominant religion (Christianity, Isiam, Buddhism, Winduism, other) and per capita GNP (up to $999, $1,000 to
$2,999, $,3000 and u p )
S. Gender (male, female) aild vote (Bush, Ciintr>n,Perotf

Suggested Answers to Exercises

50 %
4 0%
(Jonscrva$ive 29


2, Yes. Lambda requires oilly llorninal variables, so it may always be used,

Lambda .=



-.= -1.5

4, Yes. Gamma requires two ordinal variables, Education is

ordinal and ideology is a dichotoxny, so it may be treated
as ordinal.
S. P = 50f60 + 30 C 20) = 40(30 C 20) + 20(2Q)= 8,900
Q = 10(20 + 60 + 30) C 20f20 + 60) C 60f20) = 3,900

6. In terms of level of rReasurement, chi-square requi""son1y

nominal variables, so it is always appropriate, But- it is
valid as a significance test only if the data come from a
random sample.



dF =r ( 2 - l ) f 4- 1)= 3, 16.2613 < chi2, .OO1 > p (significant)

8. Since phi requires only nominal variables, it is always appropriate, Since Min(r - 1, c - 1 ) = 1, Cramer" V would
be the same as phi.
10, Tlzere is a moderately weak significant positive relationship between education and liberal ideology, The more
education people have, they more likely they are t o be

1. Income

2. Yes, Lambda requires only nominal variables, so it may aiways he used.

3, h = 4 9 + 4 9 + 1 9 = 1 1 7
a = 11 c 9 c 1 7 c 1 9 + 2 3 e 7 + 8 +1 5 c 3 = 112

117-112. =- S = .04
Lambda = 117
4, No. Gamma requires two ordinal variables, Altl-rough income is ordinal, vote is nominal and not a dichotomy.

S. Not applicable,
Q, In terms of level of measurexnent, chi-squt~rerequires oniy
llominal variables, so it always appropriate, But it is valid
as a significance test m l y if the data come from a random

Nominal and Ordinal Statistics




(fo- fJ2

(fo- fJ2/f,























































10.19 =

df = (3 - 1)(4- 1)= 6, 8.588 c chi-square c 10.645,

.20 c p c .l0 (not significant)

8. Since phi requires only nominal variables, it is always appropriate. Since Min(r - 1, c - 1)= 2, Cramer's V would
be a better measure.
9. Phi2 = 10.19 + 182 = .06
V = .06 i2 = .03
10. There is a weak relationship that is not significant. For the
sample data, there is a tendency for people with higher incomes to be more likely to vote for Dole and Perot, and the
lower people's income, the more likely they are to vote for
Clinton or to be nonvoters.

1. Both variables are ordinal, so lambda, phi, and gamlBa

could a'iI be used.
2 , GI-ime rate is ordinal, and largest minority group is nominal
and not a dictlotsm!; so only lambda and phi could be
used (and Cramer" V would he better tl-ran phi).
3, Social class is ordinal and vote is a dichc~tomy,so lambda,
gaEBrna, and phi c ~ u l da11 be used.
4. Per capita GNP is ordinal, and religio~~
is nominral and not
a dichotomy, so only lambda and phi coufd be used (and
Gramer" V would he a better measure than phi),
5. Gerider is a dichotomy, and vote is nominal and i s not a dichotomy, so only lambda and phi could be used,

Interval Statistics

In this chapter we will fook at statistics that evaluate the relationship between two interval varialzles. These statistics are derived
from a procedure called regresszon; they and their multivariate extensions fcr>veredin Chapter 10) are by far the mc-1st commonly
used statistics in contemporary poliricaf scietice research.

The Regression Line

The idea of regressir~ilis best illustrated with the use of scattergrams,
which were introduced in Chapter 6, The examples of ""perfect" relationships shown there were instances in which all of the points representing the cases fell along single strai&t lines. If all relationships
between variables we= perfect in that way-that is, perfecrly correlated-we wr~uldnot need many statistics. But in the imperfect
world of the social sciences, mast relationships are far from perfect,
and even careful visual inspection of a scattergram will tell us only so
much about the relationship between the variables plotted.
The key idea of regessian i s that there is a single, b6best-fitting,'a
Iir-re that describes the relationship betweet1 the variables better than
any other line would, Let us assume, for now, that this fine is a
scraight one. Regression statistics define this as the least-sqgnrrrs line,
that is, if we he 171.easur.e the distance of each case from that line and
sq~lareeach ualzdc, the@the total wzll be less thart what the mtal
wogM be fi~ran),ott~erh e , Fortunately, we do not have to du this
with a rulier; there are formulas to determine the exact locatictil of
the Iine and a measure of how good a fit the line is to the points.

Any straight line can be completeiy described by two facts: the 10cation of a single point through which it passes and the slope or
angle at which it rises or falls, The equaticrn far a straight line may
be written as Y = a + bX, where Y is the dependent variable, X is the
independent variable, a is the height of the line where it crosses the
y-axis, and h is the slope, Box 9.1 shows an example of a scattergram with the feast-squares fine. T e equation for the line is Y = 0.7
+ 1.l)(;,This rneans that the line crosses the y-axis at a height of 0.7
and goes up by 1.1 for every increase of 1 unit in X,
How did we determine the values of a and b? There are formulas
for each, The value of b, the slope, is cafcnlated as follows:

where X and Y are values of the independent and dependent varie rcases, Sigma (C)9the stlmmation sign,
ahles and N is the n u ~ ~ bof
indicates that one rnust add up the value for all cases, Nate that ZXV
is nof the same as /GX)JZU).GXY means that one must first multiply
the value of X by the value of 3' for each case and then add up these
producrs for all cases, (EX)JI;Y) means that one first adds up the
miginal values of X and Y and then multiplies the products, SirniIarly, Z X q s different from (XX)L.
To calculate b, a, and PearsonS r (discussed below), we need to
find the value of five sums: those of the original values of X (i.e., E X )
and 3' (i.e., EY), those of the squared values of each variable (i.e.,
ZXband ET2), and tlnat of the product oi X times Y (i.e., CXY). W
also use N, the number of cases, It is useful to set up a table like the
one belou., which uses the data for the scattergram in Box 9,1 to itlustrate the procedure.







BOX 9.1 Example of a Scattergram and

Regression Line

In step 1, we take the original values of X and V and add up

each coluxnn, giving us ZX = 1.5 and ZV = 20, In step 2, we square
each of the values of X and add up the column to get Z X L 5.5.
In step 3, we do the same for the original values of Y to get Cl' =
94, In step 4, we multiply the value of X by the value of: Y for
each case and then add up the column to get EXU = 73, Now we
place these sums, along with the number of cases (N = 5) in the furrnula for b.

To calculate the value of a, often called the corzstanf or the yintercept, the formula is:

Thus, using the figures for this example, we have:

Another example of these computatic->ilsis showil in Box 9.2.

The slt~peof the line, b, gives us a very important piece of information. T h e slope is a direct measure of the effect of the ipzdependent variable on the dependent variable. And whether it has a
plus or a minus sign tells us whether the relationship is positive or
negative. However, it has the disadvantage of being highly Jetpendent on the units in which tl-re variables are measured. Age can be
measured is days and moilths as well as years; income in dollars,
thousands of dollars, other currencies, artd so on, Making a different choice of units could drastically affect the value of b. For
that reason, it is common to compute a standardized version of the
slope called beta, a measure that will be discussed in Chapter 10.

Although the slope of the line is important, it does not give us a

measure of strength of association in the way that other measwes
such as gamma and phi do. For that we use a statistic called tlse
Pearson product-moment correlatz'on, or Pearson's r, (It is so
widely used that it is ofren reported simply as '"r,"and rehrences
only to a ""correlation" probabfy refer to it as ts"ei1.j
Pearson" r assumes that there are t w o interval variables, Its
range is from -1 to +l,It is a measure of association, that is, of the
strelsgth of the relatiorzship. Essentially, it measures how closely the
case points cluster around the regression line. In this sense, it is a
measure of hr>w good a predictor one variable is of the other, As
was the case with Phi" rr is isqgal t o the pmporciorz of vurinnce in
one varlialale explained b y the other.
This idea of ""explained variance" is a crucial one in statistical
theory. If we knew nothing about any other variables, then the best
predictor of the value of every case of Y, the dependent variable,
would be the mean value of Y, For example, in Box 9.1, picture a
horizontal line across the scattergram at the height of the trtean,
which in this example is 4 (computect by adding up the values of V
and dividing by Nj,The total variance in U would be the sum of the
sq~zareddeviations of the actual cases from this rrtean line. To the

BOX 9.2 Example of Regression and

Computations of b and a





0 6,400
400 4,900
33,600 27,400







Y = 67.5 -.35X







0 ,







Percent Urban

N CXY - ( C X )(CY) - 10(22,000)- (500)(500)

-30,000 = - 220,000 - 250,000 -.35
336,000 - 250,000



X Y - bX X - 500 - (-.35)(500) - 500 + 175 - 675






extretlt that an independent variable, X, is of some value as a predictor,

tlzen the deviations around tlze least-squares regression fine will he less,
Pearson's r2 directly measures this improvement in prediction.
The formula for Pearson's s is similar to that for b and a in that it
uses the sums of the values, tlzeir squares, and tlzeir products:

Although it may not seem immediately obvious from a look at the

lormuia, note that Pearson" r is symmetrical. Although the lormuia requires that one variable be designated as independent ( X )
and the other as dependent (V), the answer will he the same no
matter wlzich role the variables are placed in,
To calculate r for the previous example, take the results of steps 1
through 4, which yielded X = IS, V = 20, X"
660, V"
XU =: '71, and N = 5. f ubstituting these values into the formula,
we have:

This value or r, -93, shows that there is, as we would expect from
the scattesgrarR?a very strong positive relationship, The proportion
of variance explained is indicated by r" which is .SG.
We can also test the significance of Pearson" r far significance
using the, or F.-test, This test assumes, of course, that the
data come from a randoxn sample.
The value of F is computed as fcsltows:

Usirtg the values of r = 9 3 and

N = 5 from the previous exarrtple,

This value of F, like chi-square values, requires a table to determine the prohabilir):, which is reproduced in Table: 9.1. The table is
used much like tl-re chi-square table, thougl-r in this one, M - 2 is the
number of degrees of freedom. For this example, we go down to
line 3 and look across. Our F value of 18-43 wt>uld fall between
10.13 and 34.12. Therefore, the probability would be between .OS
and .01 and would be considered significant, This illustrates tl-re
fact that even a tiny random sample of five cases can produce a sigrlificant correlation-if that correlation happens to be very strong,
as this one was.
Note in Table 9.1 that in the N - 2 column, after the values reach
30, they skip to 4O,f;O, 120, and then to ilafinir5i; This is silnyly ftrr
convenience; as inspection of the values in the body of tl-re table
shows, the numbers change very little, so including ir-ztermediate
values would be a waste of space, Wheri you have an N - 2 value
that does not appear in the table, the best way to proceed would be
to use the next Lowest available value, Thus if N - 2 were SO, one
could use the figures for line 40, and this would alrnost always lead
to the correct conclusion.
Box 9.3 summarizes the critical infarmation about Pearson" r
and preserlts an additional exa~rtpleof its computation a1-d the Ftest, Other examples can be found in the exercises at the end of
the chapter.

Nonlinear Relationships
Thus far we have assumed tl-rat a ""perfect" relationsl-rip between
two interval variables would take the form of a straight line a n a
scattergram, But this is not necessarily the case far perftect relationships in the real world, Consider Figure 9.1, which shows the path
of m object hurled in the air. It is a perfect relationship in that
knowing the horizontal disrai-zce traveIed enables you to predict the
height perfectly However, this path is not described by a straight
fine, but by a curve (a parabola). This illustrates why it is impartant always to look at a scattergram when investigating interval re-


TARLE 9.1 Probability of F



















8.1 8






This table is destgncd for tesrir~gsignificance whcrc there is only
one independent variahte. Table 10,1 may be used for rn~xftipleand
partial correlations, Larger tables can be h u n d in many comprel~ensivc statistics texts,

Konald A, Fisher and Frank Vater;, Statistical Tables for Biulogzcal, Agricultural, l a d Medical Research, Sixth Editzon (Edinburgh:
Clliver and Bayd, 19631, pp.53, SS, 57, O R, A., Fisher and E Yates.


Kcprintect by permissitjn of Pearson Education, l,irnited.

fatianshigs, In an example like this one, the linear correlation and

regression statistics described in the previous section (h and r)
would indicate that there was nt->relationship between height and
distlance. Viewing the scattergram could prevent accepting that erroneous concIusiotl. A variety of techniques-all beyond the scope
of this hor>k+atl he used to analyze nonlinear or curviLinectr relationships. (The simplest approach for this example would be to divide the data at the midpoint of the independent variable and analyze each hall separately with linear regression, which would then
yield a reasonahlp correct analysis.) But if one rlever looked ar the
scaaergram, tlre need for this might never be apparent.

BOX 9.3 Information About Pearson's r, the F-Test,

and an Example of ?'heir Computation
Statistic: 13earsonk r
Type: Measure of association
Assumptions: Two interval variables
Range: -1 to +l
Interpretation: 13roportion of variance explained (r2)

Exaxnple (Continued from Box 5 3 2 )

ZX=500 EY=500 CXL33,6;00


Assumptions: Random sampling


F = 1 -rZ

CYZ=27,400 EXY=22,000

Example (from above)

532 .r F .c: 11.26, so .05

p > .01 (significant)

Conclusian: There is a strong significant negative relationship

between % U r h n and Oio Turnout, The more urban an area,
the lower its level of turnout.

Relationships Between Interval and

Nominal Variables
There are many instances wl-rere one may want to evalriate the
relationship between a nc.>minaIor ordinal variable and an interval variable, qpically this occurs when we are co~nparingtwo
groups defined by the noxninal or ordinal variable t o see
whether they are &&rent a n the interval variable. VVe might,
for example, have a sample of individuals and wish to determine
wl-rether the difference in income between males and females
was large enough to be considered significant. A number of statistical tests could be used tc_tdo this, such as the t-test and diffireace of merlgs, Altl~oughsignificance tests are the main s a tistics used far the comparisons of groups, a measure of strength
of association similar to Pearson" r railed eta is useful. where
there is a passibility that the relationship is curvilinear,

Answers to these exercises follow It is suggested that you attempt
to cc~mpletethe exercises hefclre lor>kingat the answers.

Distance Tra veled

Using the data in the following table a n the relationship between

years of education and nuxnber of times a person voted in the past
five elections, complete items 2-5.
k a r s of

# of

Years of

# of

Years of

Jf of

1 , Draw a scattergram. What sort of relationship does there

appear to be?
2. Carngute b and a and draw the regression line on tl-re scattergram.
3. Compute Pearson's r.
4. Conduct the F-test and dererrnine the significance.
S. Draw a conc2usioil about the relationship,

Using tile data in the failowing table on the relationship between

per capita income (in thousands of dollars) and percentage of a nation%budget spent a n defense, complete items 1-5 korn Exercise A.






Suppose a random sample of seventy-two counties showed a value

for Pearsor~'~
c of: .l 3 between urbar~izatior~
and crime, Conduct a n
F-test to determine the significance of this re'latiartship,

Suggested Answers to Exercises

Scattergram for Exercise A

lnterval Statistics









F C 9.07, so .05 > p > .Q1 (significant!)

5. There is a strong and significant positive relatiorlship between education and frequency of voting. The rnore education people have, the more electioils they tend to vote
in. If the data were horn, a random sample, we could conclude that tl-ris positive relationship occurs in tl-re popufation from which the sample was drawn,

Per Capita Income ($1,000~)

Interval Statistics












N = 14



1,541 1,934

5. There is a scrong and significant positive relationship between

a nation's per capita income and defense spending. The
higher the inctlt~e,the more spent t ~ ndefense. ff these data
were from a random srrxnple of nations, we could conclude
that there is a positive reIatisnship between per capita income and defense spending aERong nations in general.

F .= 4.00, so p > .05 (NOT significant)

Although tl-rere is a relationship between urbanization and crirne
for the counties in this sample, we cannclt conclude that there is
any relationship for the whole psptllaticzn from which this sample
was drawn.

This page intentionally left blank

tivariate Statistics

This chapter presents techniques for dealing with the analysis of

the relatioilship between three or more varidbfes. Give11the nature
of tine social and political world, we freq~zetltlyface situations
where there are several, or even many, possible causes of some pl-renomenon. Just think how many different factors might go into an
individual's voting decisit>n, ranging from the party identification
adopted in childhood, to a variety of a t t i t ~ ~ d eand
s opinions, to
news broadcasts and campaign appeals immedia tely before the
Sorting out potential independent variables is largely a
matcer of controlling-and, as yaw know from Chapter 3, the use
of control variables is essential in the correlational research design,
Trr this chapter you will. learn techniques for iartyositlg those controls. We will begin with the method for nominal and ordinal category variables and then turn to intervai techniques.

Controlling with Contingency Tables

As you have already learned, relationships between categorized
nominal and ordinal variabtes are analyzed using contingency tables. Contingency tables also may be used to control for third variables, This is fairly easily done: For each category of the control
variable, a table is constructed sl-rowing tlte relationship between
the independent and dependent variables, Each of these tables may
then he presented in terms of percentages and appropriate statistics
may be calculated. Note that to evaluate the effect of the control
variable, it is Ilecessary to compare the contrt>l tables to a table
without a control variabie,

Box 10.1 illustrates this procedure for a simple case i r ~which all
variables are dichotoxnized. Suppose we wanted to see wl-retl-rerthe
relationship between religion and voting was affected by an individual's inco~rtelevel. First we would construct a table showing the
relatiansl-rip between the independent variable (religion) and tlze
dependent variable (vt~tef,
Then we would construct the same table
for each category (high and low) of the control variable (incssrte).
Note that the frequencies far each cornbination of the independent
and depildent variables (such as Protestant Republican) in the
control tables add up to the frequency in the original table. Each
tahlc could then be expressed in terms of percentages and appropriate statistics computed, For this exaxnple, larnbda, gamxna, and
phi are reported. (Assuming the data were from a randc~msample,
chi-square could have heerr used, but with the small nu~nberof
cases it would not have been significmt,)
What does the example in Box 10.1 shc-IW?For all of the cases,
there is a weak relatio~ishipbetweeri religion and vote, Protestants
tend to vote Republican, and Catholics tend to vote Democratic, we look at each of the control rabies, the same is true for
both higher- and iowe~incomeresyondet~ts,The statistics measuring the strength of tl-re association vary slightly, but basically they
show the same relatioilship as in the original table, This outcome
demonstrates that the control variable (income) had little or n o effect on tl-re rela tionship between the independent variable (religion)
and the dependent variable (vote), In other words, the effect of religious preference s n the vote was tot due ICIa person's income*

What Can Happen When You Control

Several things can happen to a relationship between two variahles
when you control for a third variable, Box 10.2 illustrates this with
an exa~rtpleof the relationship betweeii income and voting as we
control far h u r other characteristics of the individtials. The ""uriginal" ttahle for all of the cases (part A) shows that there is a moderatefy strong, hut significant, re'lationship: People with higher incomes were xnore likely to vote Republican,
The first possible outcome of controlling is that nothing happens,
that is, the relationship is unchanged. This is shown in part B of BOX
10.2 wl-ren we coltcrol for gender. The tables far xnales and females
are exactly the same and therefore have the same strength of relationship, (The chi-square values are srrtaller because the control ta-

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 61

BOX 10.1 Coneofling Using Contingency Tables















B, Frequencies

VOTE Prcit Cat/?


VOTE Prot Cath


VOTE Prot Ckth

C. Percellrage Tables and Statistics




VOTE Prcit Cat/?
62% 29%
100% 100%

W T E Prot Ckth
67% 2.5%
100% 100%

W T E Prcit

I,ambda ;: .29
Gamma = +.61

1-nmbda ;: .33
Gamma = +.71
Phi2 = .l 7

I,ambda = .25
C;amrna = +.50
Phi2 = .l 9




bles are based on fewer cases.) In real-life examples the percentages

would rarely stay exactly the same, but the important thing is tbat
the measures of strength are not much altered, This is the same ourcome as in the example in Box IQ,1 . When this happens, we can
conclude that the apparent relationship httiveen the illdependent
and dependent variables was not caused by the control variable,

BOX I Q 2 What Can Happen When Controlling:

An Example
A. All Cases (No Controls)

Reptdblica~~ 60%

B. Relationship Unchanged: Controlling for Gender

H2gi2 Low
VOTE Repzdbliccan 6O% 40%
L>enzc>crat 40
1,ambda = .20
Gamma = - 1 - 3 3
f3hiL .04
Chi2 = 20.00
.001 > p

HigCs Lout
VOTE Repzdbliccan 60% 40%
L>enzc>crat 40
1,ambda = .20
Gamma = - 1 - 3 3
1% = .04
C h i b 20.00
.001 > p

C. Relationship Weakened: Controlling for Ideulr~gy

Low N2gi1
VOTE Repzdbliccan 36% 36%

Lout High
VOTE Repzdbliccan 63% 63%

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 63

Gamma = .Ol
CbiL= .01
p > .C30

Gamma = .&l
Phi2 = .Cl0
Chi2 = .@l
p > .C30

D. Relationsl~ipStrengthened: Czantrolling for Education

High Low
VOTERepublican 58% 1 1 %
Democrat 42 89

High 1 . o ~
VOTE Republican 86% 43%
Democrat 14

1,arnbda = .I8
Garnma = +.g3
f3hi2= .07
Chi2 = 36.54

1,arnbda = .OS
Garnma = +.78
f3hi2= .05
Chi2 = 24.55
.@Q1> p

E, Interaction: Controlling for Region

High Low
High Low
VOTE Republzcan 75% 17% VOTE Republzcan 33% 75%
D e n z o m ~ 67
100% loo%,
N = 320 300
N--180 170
1,axnbda = .l8
1,axnbda = .08
1,arnbda = .SS
1,arnbda = .48
Garnma = +.g8
Garnma = -.71
f3hi2= .03
f3hi2= .17
Chi2 = 21 , l 6
Chi" 66.61
.@01> p
.001 > p

The second possibility is that the relationship is weakened, perhaps to the point sf disappearing. This is shown in part C, where
we control: for ideology. A glance at the percentage tables shows
that within the income categories there was no difference betweerl the voting of high- and Iow-income individuals, and this is

confirmed by all of the statistics. How is this possible? ft c m e

about because most of the higl-r-incoxnerespondents were conservatives and most of the low-income respondents were liberals (as
can be seen by the N's in the control tables), An3 since there was
a strong tendency for conservatives to vote Republicail and liberals to vote Democratic, income did not make any difference within
those categories of ideology When we have this sort of outcome,
we conclude tl-rat the original relationship between the independent and dependent variable was caused by the control variable. If
the relationship was weakened but did not disappear, we would
say that it was partially caused by the corztrol variable, In this exaxnple, where the original relationship completely disappeared, tl-re
control variable apparently was a complete cause of the relatir~nship. fn real-lik situations it is rare that a relatitznship would disappear as completely as in this example, but significance tests like
chi-square (assuming raildom sampling) tell us whether the relationship still exists or not.
There are two possible interpretations of this example. One is
that the relationship is sptlcrioas-that the indepelldent variahle really does not affect the dependent. But it is also possible that the independent variable is an intervenzng factor between the other two
variables. This is the more logical iilterpretatioil in this example, It
would be reasonable to suppose that income affects a person's ideology and then ideology affects the vocing decision. Determining
which interpretation applies in a particular case involves the assumptions one makes about the causal priority of the variables.
This reasoning is presented in detail later in tl-ris chapter.
A third possible outcome of controlling is that the origi~~al
relationship is strengthened. This is illustrated by the example in part
W of Box 10.2, where we control for education. As the percentage
tables show3 the contrast in voting between high- and low-income
responderits is greater within the college and high school education
categories than it was when alt respondents were pooled in the
original table, and this is confirmed by the higher value of the correlational statistics. This ineans that the effect of the control variable was to ""kde" h e relationship between tl-re independent and
dependent variable to some extetlt.
H w can this happen? It occurs beca~zsethe control variable has
a relatiansl-rip with the dependent variable zn the opposite direction from that of the independent variable. In this example, re-

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 65

spondents with college experience actually tend to vote more for

Wexnocrats, But there is a strong positive relationship between education and income; people who went to college tend t o have
higher incsmes. Therefore, the effect of education was
the apparent correlation between income and voting, This makes
an important point: Even when there appears to be little or no relationship between the indeperident and dependent variables when
looking at all the rases at once, it may be valuable to control for
other factors,
The final possible owcome of controlling is that the relationship
is dift'erent within the various categories of the control varialsle,
Part E of Box 10.2 shows an example of this phenomenon, which
is called interaction. we coiltrol for region, we see that the
relationship between income a i d vote becomes stronger for nonSouth respondents, but actually reverses direction for respondents
who live in the South. Among these southerners, high income is
associated with Democratic votkg and IOW income with Repuklican voting, Interyreting interactive resulrs is difficult, but it often
suggests that we need to look more closely at other factors that
might account for the difference between the categories of the control variable. In this example of income, voting, and region, we
might need to look at variables such as the respondent's race and
religion, because the North and South have different distributions
on those characteristics. Althougl-r.the exaxnple in part E would
not he realistic today, it might have been found in earlier decades
when there was a tendency h r Africa11 Americans (most of whom
were low-income southerners) to vote Republican, wilereas highincome whites in the Somh typically suppr>rteda conservative Democra tic party, Additional examples of csntrof ling with contingency tables are found in Exercises A and B at tire end of the
Given the range of effects third variables can have on relationskips, it is extremely important to control far additional variables, particulariy in the cc>rrelationd design. Although contrt.>iling techniques are riot an inherent part of the experimental and
quasi-experirrtental designs, they can also be applied to tl-te data
resulting from those methods, Flow does one know which variables should he selected as controlsflhere is no simple answer,
for the decision must be based on our tlreoretical understanding
of the suhject under study as well as on past research findings,

But it is important to remember one principle: A control variable

can affect a relui~ionshipo ~ l ify it is velrzted to l>o~h
the independent and depende~ztvariablese For example, if there is no difference between geographic regiolls and the relative proportion of
males and females (and therefore no correiation between region
and gender), then there would he nr> purpose in using gender as a
control variable when investigating the effect of region on anything else.
Our examples here have looked only at cc~ntrolfingfor one variable at a time. But it is theoretically possible to control simultaneously for the effect of several varisltltes using contingency tables.
This is done by Looking at the independentldegendent relationship
within each possible combination of the categories on two or more
control vclriables. Thus, the example in Box 10.2 rllipht look like





L i bertll


/ \


/ \



1 ,
N-S S(>,
\ N-S
N-S SO. ! \ N-S So. / I
N-S So,
N-S S(>,
College H.S.




C p l l ~ g e H.S.


i'/ \

The result would be sixteen tables, each relatir-rg income and

voting for one of the combinations of' categories, such as inale
conservatives with a college education living in the South. Although this could easily he do~le,especially by a computer, the
drawback is that each of the resuiting tables would be based on
relatively few cases, especially if some control variables l-rad highly
unequal category frequencies. ~Voreover,the control variables in
s have been dichotc~mies,
the exatrtples we have looked at t h ~ faT
but it is comxnon for control variables to l-rave three or more categories, Therefore, unless one bas an extremely large data set,
contrcllling simultaneously for several variahles requires another
approach. The interval tecl-rniques described in the next section
provide such an alternative.

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 67

Controlling with Interval Variables:

Partial Correlations
The procedure presented in Chapter 9 for regression and calculation of the Pearson correlation for interval variables can be extended in several ways to look at the relationships between three
or more variahles. The simplest: technique, and the one most similar to the results of controlling with contingency tables, is partldl
The partial correlatio~~
measures the relationship betweer1 an independent variable and a dependent variable when one or rBore
ocl-rer variables are controlfed. The partiai correlation coefficient is
simply an extension of Pearson" r. It requires that the variables
(three or more) he interval, Jt has the safBe range of -1 to + 1 and
the same interpretation, tl-rat is, the squared value is equal to the
proportion of variance explained,
S~lbscriptsare used tct distinguish the different correlations involved. Althoud~normally 13earsonScorrelation is referred to simply
as r, it must now be designated with subscripts, for example, r,,,
meaning that it is the correlation hemeen variable Y and variable X,
Any convenient symbols, wl-retl-rer fetters or numbers, may be used
for this pwrpose. It is customary to list the dependent variable first,
Mulrivariate analyses often use a correhtion rutatrh. This is a
rectangular listing of a set of variables, so that the cell at which the
row and column for two variables intersect reports the correlation
ftrr those variables. An example appears belowVV

E~ciz~ccati:~'u~z(E) 1-00
1,ibercalkm (J,)
Vote ((V)
re, = .81, rle= -43, r\re = -.23,



.8 1
.4 3
-. 54
-, 72
.4 1
= -.54> r\rf = -.72, rvl=-41


.4 1

Note that tl-re values alr~ngthe diagonal are all 1.00. This is because they each represent the correlation of a variable with itself.
Each of the other numbers appears twice because the correlation of

variable X with variable Y is the same as the correlation of variable

Y with variable X . Therefore, it is common to see correlation matrices presented as only one diagonal half, The line under the matrix shows the use of subscripts to report the saiirte inhrmation.
The correlation between education (E) and income (X) is written as
re,, and the matrix shows it to be ,81. The correlation betweell liberalism and educatioli is r, = .4J,
Wit11 this natation system, it is relatively easy to compute a
partial correlation Erom the "'simple" "arson correlaticrns between variables. Here we will look only at the formula for the
first-order p~artiikl,that is, the corvel~tionbetween the independerlt
ai"ld depende~tvariables with o ~ l one
y COF~~;Y(ZIviarlble, Tlie formula is:

where the subscript y denotes the dependent variables, x the indepeildeilt variable, and z the cc.,iltrol variable. As partial correlations can have any number of control variables, a period is
used to separate them from the independent and dependent variables (e.g., r,.,,,).
The iolfowrng example ilibrstrates the computation of partial
r, Suppose we took a randoxn sample of I00 counties in eke
United States and found that the dependent variable, crime rate
(C), and the indeperident variable, per capita income (Jj, had a
correlation, r,,, of .20, seemingly indicating that areas with
higher-income residents had somewhat higher crime rates. HCWever, we wish to control for percentage urban (U). To do this, we
need to employ the correlations of both cri~neand incorne with
percentage urban, Suppose these were r,, = .6O and c,, = .80.'To
cofrtpute the partial, we need t o substitute these three simple
correlations into the formula above, as follows:

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 69

The result shows that co~itrollingfor urbanization clearly had

an effect on the relationship between income and crime. The original correlation was positive jr,, = .20), but the partial, contrt.>iling for urbanimtion, was stronger and negative jr,,., = --.58).
What occurred here? Altkougli the initial relationship between
crirrte and i l ~ c ~ m
e was surprisingly negative, we see that an
even stronger correlate of crime was urbanization; the more
urban an area, the higher the crime rate, And the rnore urban the
county, the higher the income. When we control for urbanization,
thereby removing its effects, we see that the real relationship betweeri i n c o ~ ~and
e crime is negative, that is, the higher the income, the lower the crixne rate.
Box 10.3 summarizes the critical infarmation on partial r and
gives another example of its cornputatio~,Additional exarllgles
can be h u n d in Exercise C at the end of the chapter.

Sign$cance Test f i r Partial u

Assuming that the data are from a random sample, the F-test can
be used to determine significmice in much the same way as with
13earsonkreThere are two differences, however, both resulting from
the fact that a partial correlarian is based on more variables than a
simple Pearson's re
The forrnula for X; is:

where N is the nuxnber of cases and k is the number of independent

and control variables. This is actualfy the same formula as was
used to calculate F for the simple Pearson's r, but since there was
only one independent variable, the value of (N - k - I ) was always
fN - 2). The formula above can be used Eor partials with any number of control variables,
Also dilferent is cllac in this case we must use a probability of
F table that takes into account the number of variables as well
as the number of cases. This necessitates a different table for
each level of probability. The table for the .OS level is reproduced in Table 10.1.

BOX 20.3 XnformL-ionAbout Padal and

Muldple Correlations, the F-Test, and
Examples of Computations
Statistic: Partial r
Type: Measure of association
Assumption: Three or more interval variables
Range: -1 to + 1
Interpretation: Proportion of variance explained (r,,.,L)

Exaxnple: Given tl-re following correlation matrix af 13earson's

r's, calculate the partial correlatiw between a respondent's reported Frequency af Voting (V) with Incoxne (X), controlling
for Years of Education (E), i.e., r,,,. Data are from a random
sample of 500,
rGTatrix af Pearsun" r
Income (If
Education (E)
Frequency of voting (V) .SO



Conclusion: Although there was an initial fairly strong positive

correlation between income and voting frequency, it almost
wrupletely disappeared when educatior~was controtled for, This
suggests chat the tendency Eor respondents with higher education

to vote more frequently is almost entirely due to their higher

level al edmcatian.
Statistic: F-test for partial R
Assumption: Random sampliq
Interpretation: The probability of F is the probability that the
partial correlation observed in the sample data could occur by
chance if there were no relationship in the population from
which the sample was drawn.

Example: Using the partial correlation computed above, r,,, =

.04, N = S00, and k = 2 Ithere are two independent variables).
We substitute the vaiues into the formula for F:

Using Table 10.1, we locate the F value for N - k - 1 = 120

(the next-lowest to 497) and the column under the heading k
= 2. The vaiue &ere is 3.07, which is much larger tlzan the E
for this example. Therefore, the probability is greater than -05
and this partial correlation is not significant.
Statistic: multiple R
Type: Measure of association
Assumption: Three or more interval variables
Range: 0 to 4-1
Interpretation: Pn~portionof variance explained (RL)

Example: Using the correlation matrix in the first part of this

table, we can calculate the multiple correlation of the independent: variable, voting frequency (V) with two independent
variables, income (I) and education (E). The Pearsank r correlations needed are rvi = .50, rve = .&Q,and r,, = .W.

Conclusion: Income and edtlcation together explain 36 percent of the variance in kequency of voting. This is virtualIy
n o improvement over the explanatory value of education
Statistic: F-test for multiple R
Assumption: Random sampling
Interpretation: The probability of F is the probabilbty that the
partial correlation observed in the sample data could occur by
chance if there were no relationship in the population from
which the sample was drawn.

where N = sample size, and k = number of independent variables,

Example: To test the multiple R previously computed for voting frequency, income, and education, we substitute the relevant values: ,
rv:, = .36,N = 500, and k = 2.

We then go to Table 10.1. We look down to the line to N - k

- 1 = 120 (the next-lowest value to 4337") and to the coiuxnn
beaded k = 2. The value there is 3.07, Since our F is much larger,
we can conclude that the probability of chance occurrence i s less
than .OS,Therefore, R2 is significant.

Tc? find the significance for the partial we just computed, we insert the values into the formul;~for F: N = 100, r = -,SS, and k = 2.
This resuks in the following:

We now lr~okin Table 10.1. We go down to the fine opposite 60

(the closest one tc-,the value of 97 far N - k - 1) and look at the
second column, because k, the e~umberof independent and corztrol
variables is 2, We see that an F value of onfy 3.1 5 would be required to assure that the probability of chance occurrence of this
relationship m u I d be less than .M, Since our F i s much iarger, we
are sure that the retationship is significant at the .05 level, Other
examples of the F-test for the partial correlation can he fc~undin
Box 10.3 and in the Exercises at the end of the clzapter.

The Multiple Correlation

Depeildent variables in social research conznzr~nlyhave several distinct but related causes. Consider, for example, an individua19svote
for a presidential candidate, This decision c m be partially predicted
or explained by each of a considerable number of factors, including
the person" party identification, illcome, race, religion, idealog): and
attitudes rovvard a numher of specific issues. But these factors are
themselves interrelated; for example, a Republicail identifier will
tend to have a higher inct>meand a more conservative ideology*Simply adding up the explanatory value of these separate independent

TABLE 10.1 Probability of F for Partial and Multiple Correlations

(0.5 Probability Level)

k = Number of independent and control variables

k = l


















































Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 75

N W E : I,argcr tables showing additional stgrlificancc Ievcls may bc

fo~rndin many coil-tprefiensivestatistics texts.

s o u ~ c ;Rorlald
A. Fisher and Frank Yares, Statistical Tables fir
BioEogilraE, Agvicz--tlturaE,and Medical Research, SZXgh EEdiL-ion
(Edinburg1.t: Ofiver and Boyd, 19631, pp 53, 5.5, 57,

O R. A. Fisl-ter and E rates. Reprinted by perlltission of Pearson

Education, Limited.

variables would be misleading, for their contributi<~nst o the

vote, in effect, '"overlap" tto some degree, The multiple correlation coefficient is designed to measure the total contribution of
several independent variables to the explanation of a single depellde~ltvariable while taking into accrlunt any ""overlap" in
their cox~tri
The rnuleiple correlation cuefticient is symbolized by a capital R,
and the subscripts begin with the depelldent variable, followed by
the independent variables. Thus R,.,, measures the total effect of
the independent variables, x and z, a n y, the dependent variable.
The details of multiple R are similar to those Pearson3 r and the
partial r in that all tlavicjreks w s t be i~tcrrvaland that the sqtrilred
w l ~ of
e R is the eqgal tu propurgion of'uarIILdl~ceexpkkined, Howeve4 multiple R differs from the others in that it can oniy be positive, that is, it does not show direction (because sofBe of the independent variables may have a positive relationship to the
dependent variable and others a llegative relationship), Therefore,
the range of possible values for R is O to i l ,
As with tl-re partial correlation, rnultipie R can easily be calculated from the simple Pearson's r vvalues, Normally the square of
multiple R is computed, which tells is the proportion of variance

explained; thus, For multiple R h i t h two independent variables,

the forxnula is:

R itself can be caiculated by taking the square root of the result,

but Rqis rnore meaningful a d hence is tlne figure usually repmted.
We can illustrate this computation with the previous example for
crime rate (C), percent urban (U) and per capita incc>me(1). The
Pearson correlations were r,, = -20, r,,, = .GO, and r,,, = .80, Suppose
we wish to coxnpute the multiple correlation of two independent
variables (income and percentage urban) with the depelldellt variable (crime rate). Substituting the letter identifying the variables for
the example in tlze forxnula and then substituting the corresponding
values, we have:

This shows that incsme and urbanization together explain '77percent of the variance in crime rate.
Multiple correlations with more independent variables may be
computed ~zsingmore csmplicated fc3rmulas involving partial correlations,

Significance Test for R'

Assuming that the data are from a r a r z d o ~sample,
the significance
of R2 may be Jererrnined by the F-test in rrlucln the same way as for
the partial correlation, The formula is:

where P;; is the sample size and k is the number of independent

variables. For the preceding example, in which R" -77, N = 1 OO,
and k = 2, we substitute these values and obtain:

Mzaltivariate Statistics

(Note that the value of -77 previously computed for R2 was already
the squared value.)
litrning now to the probability figures in Table 10.1, we go down
column t to where N - k - I is 60 (the table's next lowest value
from 9";;"a d then over to column 3 (headed "k = 2"). We see that
in order to be statistically significant, F would have to equal 3. f S
or more, Since our F is much larger, we can be confidex~tthat the
probability of having obtained an Rhaalue of .77 by chance is less
than .05, and therefore the relationship is significant. Additional
examples of the F-test h r R b r e found in Box 10.3 and in Exercise
C at the end of the chapter,

Beta Weights
The process of deterrlnini~~g
the "ibest-fitting" rregression line and
the equation that defines it can be extended to any number of independent variabtes, The equtltion takes the form:

where Y is the dependent variable, X,, X,, and so on are the independelit variables, and b,, bL, and so on are the corresponding values of the siape fnr each independent variable. The computations
for these multiple regression statistics are beyond the scope of this
book, and in fact they are almost always done on a corrtputer*
However, it is ixnportant to be aware of them as they are widely
used in contemporary political science re sear cl^.
Mthough the b values for the slopes are quite meaningful, they
can be difficult. to interpret directly because they are dependent on
the units in which each of the variables is measured. For that reason, the results of multiple regression analyses are commonly reported in terms of s a ~ d a r d i x e dr e g r g s s i ~coefficients
or beta (@)
weights. Betas are standardized in two ways, First, they show the
effect of each independent variable on the dependent variable, controlling far all of the other independem variables, In this respect,
they are like partial corretations. Second, they use the standard

deviations of the variables to remove the effects of the particular

units in which tl-re variables are measured. Tl-rus if the beta for the
first independent variable is twice as high as that far the second independent variable, we can sap that the first variable had twice as
rnuch impact a n the dependent variable as did the second. F-tests
are used with hetas to determine the significance of each independent variable. The muIrip)e R% a measure of the expianaeory
value of the whole equation.

Causal Interpretstion
The chapter thus far has presented techniques far analyzing the
relationship of three or more variables, particularly procedures
for Ictoking at the relationship between two variabks wl~ilecontrolling for a third, This concluding section will focus on some
principles that are vital Eor interpreting what the results of these
techniques mean,

Interpreting the results of multivariate a~lalysisis a process leading to conclusions about patterns of causalion, A quick review of
the three ""criteria for inkrring causality'9hat were in traduced in
Chapter 3 will be useful here. The first is cowiariatitsn, or correiatic~n.You should now have a much clearer idea of what this
meaxls, The various ineasures of association, from Xambda to inuftiple R, are all measures af covariation, The second criterion is
time order or, more precisely, causal priority. Ti, interpret the results of inultivariate analysis correctly, we must be very clear
about our assumptions about tl-re order in which we believe the
variahfes occur. Finally, before we can draw any causal inferences,
we must make sure that relationships between variables are vtot
spurious. This is the purpose of the controlling tecl-rniques discussed earlier in this chapter.

Although the process of causal modeling in its complete form is

rnathernatically sophisticated and beyond the scope af this book,
its essentials can he simplified and used to analyze a small number
of variables with the techniques covered earlier. The key point is

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 79

that we must he prepared to a s s w e that arty cagsial relationship

between two vnrliahles can be in only one dzrection, It is quite possible for causatioil to he reciprocal, that is, for X to ir-rfluence U"
while Y influerices X, For example, a person's ideology undoubtedly influences his or her party identification, but party loyalty may
also affect ideological views, There are a number of techniques for
analyzing two-way ca~zsation,but they require r ~ u c hrRore satistical background tl-ran can be provided here. Therefore, we must assume that causatioil is unidirectional and that we know what the
directio~iis. When our data are derived from, a true experiment or
a quasi-experimentai. design, there is littfe doubt &out which variable "caxne first" "cause we know when the variables occurred.
I-.I~wever,with a correlatiollal design (which is where we typically
use causal modeling), this causal order is less clear. in that case the
assumption of causal order must be based on the kind of reasoning
presented in Chapter 2 in the discussion of the variables-cheoretical role and the difference between independent and dependent
variables. We must also make tl-re assumption tl-rat tl-rere are no additional variables that could he affecting the relationships. But
whatever the basis for the assumptions, we must specifv the causal
priority before assessing the applicability of any causal models.
Figure 10.1 illustrates the need for causal modeling in even the
simplest case, where there are only three variabfes, Vlre first specifj.
the causal priority X, Y, Z. This means that if there is causation between the three variables, then X causes l' and Z, and I( causes Z,
No reverse causation is permitted-that is, Y cannot cause X, and
Z cannot cause either of the otl-rer two.
We would undermke causal modeli% for this set of variables hecause we have data that indicate some relationship between them;
some or all of tile possible intercorreiations are not zero, The exampie
in Figure 10.1 assumes that we have interval data so that Pearsuil's
r and partial r can be computed, But the same reasoning can be applied to noxninal and ordinat data, as will be discussed later.
As Figure-. 18.1 shows, there are four passible causal models that
might underlie a pattern of observed intercsrrelation between only
three variables. We can use Pearsank r and partial correlations to
determine whether each model fits any given set of data. Model 1
is the simplest case, where there are two independent variables, X
and Y, that are not at all related. We would conclude that this is the
case only if there were no simple Bearson correlation between X
and Y, that is, r,, = 0,

FIGURE-,10.1 Causal models for three vartablcs and tests

1VOL)EL 1:



TEST: r,,= 0.00

TEST: r,,,= 0.00



\ K

TEST: r,,,,= 0.00

TEST: ry, not equal t o 0.00,

r,,, not equal t o 0.00,
and rzxVy
not equal to 0.00

Model 2 in Figure 1Q.1illttstrates spurious correlation, in wllich

there is some apparent relationship between two variables (Y and
Z in this case), but that relationship disappears when controlled for
a prior variable (X in this case). The test for this model i s the partial correlation between Z and % controlling for X, Xf r,,., = 0, then
we would conclude that model 2 fits our data.
Model 3 iliustrates the presence of an irttervening uariubl'e, that
is, X causes Y, and then V causes Z , This means that wl-rile we
may have observed some correllatioil between X and Z , it occurs
only through V, the intervening variable. Therefore, the test for
this model i s tlze partial correlation between Z and X, controlling
for Y. If r,,, = 0, then we can conclude that model 3 can be applied to this data set.
The difference between model 2 and rnodei 3 highlights the importance of the assumptions we make about causai priorify. If we
find that a correlation between two variables disappears when we
control for a third, does that mean that the originaX relationship
was spurious! No, not unless the control variable was logically
prior to the independent variable, If the control variable vvas more

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 81

likely a result of the independetit variable, then the mtrdel 3 interpretation of an intervening factor is correct. If, on tl-re other I-rand,
we have assumed that the control variable is causally prior to the
other two, then their relationship would be spurious.
If none of the test correlations (r,,, r ,,-,,
and r
are equal to
zero, then model 4 applies. This means that, given our assumptions
and available information, we can1i~)tsimplify the model and m s t
assume that all of the correlations do imply causal linkages. It is
also possible that more than one of these test statistics will be equal
to zero, This simply means that some or atl of these variables are
not even related, so there is no need k>r causal interpretation.
However, one should not draw such a conclusion until the appropriate partials have been computed, because it is possible for the
value of Pearson's r between two variables to be zero while the partial is significamly positive or negative.
Although examples such as these-in whictl correlations turn out
to be exactly zero-can occur with real data, usually they do not,
How clr~seto zero must a correlation be? If the data are from a random sample, then the F-test may be used for Pearson" r a d the
partial correlations. If the probability is greater than .OS, then the
correlation can be assumed to be zero for the population, But one
may be working with nonsample data, where any correlation,
however small, is, in a statistical sense, significant, or with data
from a such large sarnple that even rninute correlations indicating
no practical relatirrnship are still significant at tile .05 level. In
such instances, one may look at aIX o f the tests and see that because
one of the test statistics is extremely weak, the corresponding
model is, indeed, the '"best fitting."
Box 10.4 illustrates the process of causal modeling with an example using data on nations. The dependent variable is military spending (measured as a percentage of:national budget). The causal priority of the other two variables is not obvious, as both wealth
(measured as per capita. GNP) and democracy (measured on a tenpoint scale) would have a lengthy history, To keep the example
simple, we will assurr.le that wealth causes democracy, Hence the
causal priority is wealth, dexnocracy, military spending. As Box 10.4
shows, model 1, indepelldent causation, clearly does not apply, because wealth and denlocraq are strongly correlated. Model 2, spurious correlation, also does not apply$because the partial r between
military spending and wealth, controiling fc~rdemocracy (rgnW,&)r
quite strong. But when we test model 3, Intervening Variable, we

find that the partiat correlation between military spending and

= .05f.
wealtl-r, controllix far dernocritcy, is very nearly zero (rmdSw
Elence we conclude that model 2 is the best fit, The wealthier a nation, the more democratic it tends to be, and the more democratic,
the higher tl-re military spending. In other words, tl-re apparent relationship of wealth to military spending is a result of the effect of
wealth on the type of g u v e m e n t . Another example of causal trtodeling can be fotjnd in Exercise C at the end of tlze chapter,
The relatively simple three-variahle example in Box 10.4 illustrates how controlling allows us to understand these basic patterns
in statistical anatgsis, particularly to distinguish cases of intervening variables from spurious correlations. More elaborate models
may he constructed for larger numbers of variables. Although that
is best done by writing simultaneous equations for all of the possible patterns (BXalock 1964), tl-re relatively simple approach using
partial correlations can easily be extended to more complex problems (Blalock 1962).
Figure 10.2 shows a causal model that fchutman and 130mper
(197.5)constructed tc-, analyze votillg belravior in the 1972 presidential election. As is ccjmmon in the presentation of such models,
measures of the relative stretlge1-r (in this case, beta weights) are included for each of the causal arrows. This mc~delshows how the effects s f social hackground and family partisallship are mediated
largely through an individual's party identification. Party identification then has both a direct effect cm the vote and an indirect effect
through i t s influence on attitudes toward particnlar issues and evalut~tionof the candidates. Interestingly, almost identical causal patterns were found far elections in three different decades, but the
relative strength of the different linkages showed that party idetitification declined somewhat as an influewe on votiw while the importance of issues increased. Thus, causal modcling can reveal important generalizations about complex phenomena.

Causul Interpretution Using Contingmcy ?bble~

Although the complete cartsal modeling procedure requires interval
data and partial correlatioils, the same logic can be applied to nominal and ordinal category data, in which controlIing is dcrr-re usirlg
contingency tables as explained in the first part of this chapter, To
do this for three variables, explicit ass~tmptivnsmust be made
about causal priorities. Then three sets of contingency tables m s t

BOX 10.4 An Example of Causal Modeling

Correlation Matrix (X)earsank sr)
Wealth (W)
1.00 -85 ,S1
Democracy (D)
.85 L.80 .62
Military spending (1M) -51 -62 1.00
W = l 86 Nations

r,,,,, = -78
r mw>,c = -.Q5

Assumed causal priority: Wealth, democracy, military spending

Model 1 : Independent Causation

Test: Does rdw= O! No, rd, = .g5
Conclusion: Model 1 does not apply-

1Vodel2: Spurious Correla tion

Test: Does rmdSw
= O! No, rmdew
= -78.
Conclusion: LWodel 2 does not apply.

W *D


f i s t : Does r

= 01 rtnd+,= -.OS,
wllicb is very close to zero,
Gonclusictn: LMc~del3 may apply.

1Vodei 4: Complete Causation

W *D


Test: Are rdw9rn,d,r, and rmsd a11 not

equal to =so? Since rrrrdew
= .OS,
Mc~del4 does not apply very well.



Model 3 is the best fitting causal model:



be constructed: (1)tables cross-tabulating each pair of variables

without controls; ( 2 ) tables cross-tabulating the second independent ('"middle") variabie with the depelldeat variahle while controlling for the first independent variable; and (3) tables crosstabulating the first independent variable witl-r the dependent
variable while controlling for the second independent (""middle"')
variable, Appropriate statistical measures of association and (if
randorn sarnple data are used) significance levels are then cornputed. When all of this has been done, it may be possible to distinguish the four possible causal models previously presenwd,
The results of this procedure may be more ambiguous than those
obtained In causal modelinfi for interval variables, The problem is
that there may be substantial ilzteracticm, that is, the relationship
may be of different strengrhs within different categories of a control variable, On the other hand, this can be ail advailtage of the
contingency table method, since partial correlations do nut reveal
whether interaction is present.. The contingency table approach
also may be extetlded tc-,a larger number of variables, which would
require controlling for two or more variables at once, As noted earlier, simultaneously controlling for several variables produces numerous tables, many with inadequate numbers of cases.
Box 10.5 presents the contingency tables rlecessary to mdertake
this version of causal analysis. The example deals with the question
of racial differences in voting participation and the extent to which
these differences can be attributed to education, We assume that
the causal priority is race, education, turnout, That ttlmout could
only be a consequence of the other two is O~VIQLIS, It also makes
sense to assume that race more lilcely influences education (i.e.,
members of minority groups tend to have less education) for a variety of reasoils, whereas the nt>tioilthat educatioil could influence
race and ethnicity does not make sense.

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 85

An example t>f a causal model: 1972 presidential election















,/*S l 0


N = 827
RL= ,4713 (p < .OO f )

Figures by arrows are beta weights,

Addagtcd from hlark A. Scbutman and Gerald brnper,

"hriabitity in Electoral Behavior: Longitudinal Perspectives from
Causal &lodeling," Amerzcan jozar~talof Politic~alS~ie$?ceI9 ( f 975),
1-1 7.


Box 10.5 first presents the relationsl-rips between each pair of

variables. It tl-ren explores the relationship between tl-re dependent
variable burnout) and each of the independent varirtbles (race and
education), Recatlirlg the four causal models presented earfier, we
can easily see that rnodel 1, independent causation, is not a possibility, because the two independent variables (race and education)
are strongly related. The second set of tables jtrtrnout with education, controlling foe race) would test rnodel 2, spurious correlation,
because it determines whether the relationship between the second
and third variables disappears when corztroiling kjr the first. Modet

2, does not fit the data, as the turnoutleducation relationship re-

mains about the same strength and is significant for both racial categories. But when we look at the relationship between turnout and
race, controlling for education, the relationship within each education category virtually disappears, in both strengeh and significance. When we compare individuals of a given level of education,
there is virtually no difference in the turnout rates of whites and
nonwhites. Since we l-rave assumed that race i s causally prior to
education, model 3, intervening variable, fits these data very well,
This analysis aids in our substarttive interpretation of: turnout,
Race is not irrelevant to turxlout, because it is ultimately a cause,
but it had i t s entire effect tl-rrougk education, This might suggest
that if we are concerned about increasing tumout among racial minorities, we shsulct address the larger question of why there are
racial differences in educational attainment,

Answers to the exercises follow. T t is recom~neridedthat you attempt to complete the exercises before looking at the answers.

Below are tables showing the relationship between party competition and spending Eor education in the fifty states with a control for
the state" per capita income. Wl-rat conclusion would you draw
about the hypotl-resis that higher Levels of party competition calrse
states to spend more on education?
SLrEmMC E-IlgI? Lozv
72% 36%

100% 100%
N = 25


85% 83%
15 17
100% lot>%
N = 20




BOX 10.5 Using Contingency Tables for

Causal Xnterprearion
Assuxnccl causal priority: Race, education, turnout

A. Tables with N o Controls



W R N O U T WC~ite Non-whzte
"73% 50%


100% 100%
M = 1,OIlO
Garnlna = .40
Chi" 49.51 ( p c . W l )
Phi2 = .C14


7 2 "0
N ~ P z -ter
IiJ = 700


EuUc~TiQr\l White Non-whzte

= 1,000
= .63
140.00 (p < .001)

High School



High School
Ciamrma = .72
C:l-iiL = 257.14 (p < ,001)
Phi" . l 8

B, Turnout by Education, C:antrolling for Race

TURNOUT Collegre School
N = 600
Ciarnma = .71
ChtZ= 168.3.5 (p < .001)
Phi2 = .17

WO ter
is;i = 100
Ciarnma = .68
Cht" 50.00 ( p < .001 )
Phi2 = .12

6". Tumour: by Raec, Controllir~gfor Education

TUKNQm W/?l'te Non-white TURNBUT
White Non-whit@
100% 100%
N = 400

The best-fitting model would look like tl~is:

Below are tables showing the relatioilship between a responderrt's

approval rating of the president and his or her vote in the next election with a control far the respondent" party identification. What
conclusion would you draw about the hypothesis that people who
approve of the president's perhrmance in office are more likely to
vote for the calldidate af the president" party? (As you migl-rc
guess, the president in this example was a Democrat.) Data are
from a survey using random sampling,







I>isappruve VOTE Approve Disappfiwe


Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 89


N = 500
1,arnbda = .Q0
Ciarnma = +.88
Chi = 680.00 (p < .a01)
Phi b -68



N = 200
I,alnbda = .Q9
(iarnma = c. 80
Cht = 61.43 (p < .a01)
Phi L .20

Approve t)&apprave
Approve Disapprove

1,ambcfa = .25
Gamma = +.86
Czki h 83.22 (p .:.ifQlf
1% G .28

1,ambda = .63
Gamma = +.86
Czl-rih 169.42 (p c: .Q01f
1% G .42

Below is a matrix of Pearson's r data on a r a r z d o ~sample

of fifty
nations that were a11 a t some time in the past under the csntrsl of
a colonial power, The variables are the number of years since independe~lce,ewnomic developmellt (measured as per capita GDP),
and political instability Measured as the relative nur~berof "irregtilar executive transfers" f i a t have occurred in the nation, Using
the correlations in the matrix;
1. Calct~iatethe partial correlation between instability and development, controlling for years since independence (r,,l,,).
Use the F-test to determine significance,
2. Calculate the partial correlation between instability and
years since independence, cantrolling fur development
(rtYd).Use the F-test to determine significance.

3. Calculate the multiple correlation with instability as the dependent variable wit11 development and years since indepelldence as the independent variables. Use the F-test to
determine significance,
4. Assuming tl-re causal priority years since independence, development, instability3 determine the hest-fitting causal
model for these variables,

Ueam (yl)






Suggested Answers to Exercises

When we loc>k at all the states, there appears to be a fairly strong

positive relationship between party c s ~ ~ p e t i t i oand
n spending on
educacian, that is, states with high competition are more likely to
be states with high vending than states with low competition.
However, when we control for states>er c q i t a income, the relationsl-rip almost completely disappears. This indicates that the reiationship between cc~mpetitionand spending was due to the effect of
income and that these two variables do x~otaffect each other.

When we look at all respondents, we see that there is a strong and

significant relationship between approval and the vote, that is,
those who approwd of presidential performance voted Democratic, and those who disapproved voted Republican, When we control for the respondent" party identification, the relationship remains strong and significant within each group of party identifiers.
Therefore, we c m col~clndethat presidetitial approval does affect
voting in the next election, Note that (as you can tell horn the N's
in the control tables) party is related tc, both variaMes, Democratic
identifiers are more likely to approve of presider~tiaiperformance

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 91

and are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate, But the
effect of approval is clear even within the party identification cat-

F 3. 3.21, so p c .OS. This partial is significant.

F ;> 3-21 , so p


.OS, This partial is significant.

Mode1 1

Made1 2

Made! 3

Model 4

The test for m d e l 2 , independent causation, is whether the

simple Pearson correlation between years since ixldepe~iderlceand
development is zero. As the inatrix shows, rd, = -34 (and an F-test
shows that this is significant at the .Q5level), Therefore, model 1
does not apply.
The test for model 2, spurious correlation, is wketl-rer the partial correlation between instability and development, controlling
for years since independence, is zero. As. the calculations in question 1 above show, r,&, = -.71 and it is significant. Therefore,
model 2 does not apply,

Mzaltivariate Statistics

f 93

The test for model 3, intervening variable, is whether the partial

correlation between instability and years since independence, controlling for development, is zero. As the calculations in question 2
above show, r,,:, = -.42 and it is significant. Therefore, model 3
does not apply.
Since the data fail to meet any of the tests for the first three
mtrdels, we conclude that model il, complete ca~zsation,is the most
applicable. Bottl years since independence and econaxnic develr~pment (which are themselves interrelated) have a direct effect on
political instability,

This page intentionally left blank


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Abramson, Paul R., 1 1 1
Aldrich, John H., 1 1 1
Almer, Ennis C. 1 10
Analytical sentences, 4
Ansolabehere, Stephen, 44
Balachandran, IV., 56
Balachax~dran,S,, 56
Bar chart, 106-108
Bar one, LVichael, 65
Bereison, Bernard, 58
Beta weight, 177-1 78
Bibby3John E, 5.5
Btaiock Hubert M,, 182
Burnhaxn, Walrer D,, 56
Captive population, 72
Causaiiry, 31-32. 178
Causal modeling, 178-190
Case study, 43
Chi-square, 101,124-3 32
Cluster sample, 70
Congressional data sources,
Content Analysis, 5 8-64
Contingency tables, 92-93,
Controll variable, 21-22,
4 0 4 3 , 159-1166,167-173
Cook, Rl-rodes M,, 107, 108
Coplin, William D,, 54
Cramer" V, 101, 132-134

Cutright, Philiips, 46
Data, 47
Demographic data sources,
Dichotomy, 87
Difference of means test, 101,
Ecological fallacy322, 24, 49
Edwards, George C., 57
Eldersveld, Samuel J., 46
Electicjn return sources, 56-57
Empirical sentences, 2, 3-8
Eta, 101, 151
Exit poll, 71
Explanation, 3
Experimental design, 32-37
Factorial design, 37
Fisher, Rona'id A., 149, 175
F-test, 101, 146-149, 169-17.5,
176-3 77
Gamma, 122-124
Garrison, Cregory M., 5 1
Carwood, Alfred N., 56
Generaliizations, 2, 3
Goldstein, Joshua, 55
Craber, Doris A., 64
Graphics, principles for,
1i 3 3.--1.55


Graphics, problems with,

109-1 l 2
Elastings, Elizabeth Hann, 5 7
Hastings, Phillip K., 57
Hovey, Harold A. S6
Elovery, Kendra A., 56
Huff, Darrell, 109
Hypothesis, 12, 17-20
Interaction, 184
Inrternational data sources,
Internet sources, 48, S 1, 52,
53, 56, 58
Intersubjective testhilit5 2
Interval variable, 85
Intervening variable, 1 80
Interviewing, 71-72
Janda, Kenneth, 54
Jodice, David A,, 54
Katz, Daniel, 46
Kendall's Tau B, 101, 124
Kendall's Tau C, 181
Kramer, Cerald H., 46
Lambda, 101, 117-120,
Level of measurement, 83-89
Line graph, 108-189
Local data sources, 56
McGilfivray, AIice V, 187,
~Vackie,Tbomas X, 54
Mackinson, Larry, 55
Mait survey, 72
Median, 90.-9 2

IVode, 91
Mt~nroe,AIan D., 42, 57
Morgan, Katkleen O,, 53,56
IVueller, John E,, 57'
Multiple R, 173-1 77
Multivariate statistics, 98-1 Q 1
Natural experiment, See
Niemi, Ricbard G., 54
Nominai variabie, 83-.-84
Noniinear relationship,
Normative sentence, 2, 3-8
North, Robert C,, S9
O' Lear)i Michael K., 54
Operational definition, 18-1 9,
Ordinal variable, 84-85
Ornstein, Norman J,, S5
Page, Benjamin I,, 5 7
Partial correlation, 1 67-1 n3,
179-1 82
Patterson, Thornas E., 59, 64
Pearsun's r, 101, 1 44-147
Personal interview, 71
Phi, 101, 130-232
Pie chart, 106
Pomper, Gerald IV., 59,
60"-61 , 64, 1 82
Prediction, 3
Ragsdaie, Lyn, 56, 64
Random digit Qialing, 70
Random sample, 68-70
Range, 9 1-92

Recording unit, 60-6 1

Regression, 141-145
Research desigil, 12,
3 1-43
Research problem. See
Research question
Research question, 8-1 l
Rhode, %>avidW., 111
Rubinson, ~VichaelJ,, 59
Rose, Richard, S4
Rosenstone, Sreven J., 22
Sampling, 62, 67-71
Scarnmon, Richard M,, 107,
Schulmail, IVark A., I82
Scott, Stepher1 M., S1
Seff-administered survey,
Scattergram, 93-95
Science, 2, 10-1 1
Shapiro, Rohert, 5 7
Sheefran, Margaret A., 59
Significance, 99- 100
Significance test. See Cbisquare; F-test; T-rest;
Difference of Means test
Silvard, Ruth, 54, 65
S o l o ~ ~fo~zr-group
design, 37
Spurious correlation, 180
Standard deviation, 92

Standardization, 26, 49,

ft-anley, Harold W*, S4
Statistic, 90
State data sources, 56
f tirvey data sources, 57-58
Survey items, 73-78
Survey research, 67-78
Tau B, 101
Taylor, Charles L., S4
Theoretical role of variables,
Theor)i 17-19
T-test, 101, 151
Tufte, Edward R,, 178
Ujifusa, Grant, Q5
Univariate statistics, 90-92
United States data sources,
Unit of analysis, 22-25, 48-49

Wallgren, Anders, f 06
Wolfirtger, Raymond E., 22
Woad, Floris W,, 5 7
b t e s , Frank, 149, 175
Yule" Q, 120-122