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Published August 1994 | Published
Journal Article Open

Uncertainty and Political Perceptions


While the world of politics is uncertain, previous work, both theoretical and empirical, has largely failed to incorporate this uncertainty into the analysis of public opinion and electoral behavior. In this article we discuss measures designed to elicit the uncertainty survey respondents feel about their political perceptions. These measures exhibit response patterns which are interpretable, substantively interesting, and consistent with a model relating uncertainty to citizen information costs. We also find that variation in respondent uncertainty leads to different models of perception of political figures and speaks to models of the survey response. As a practical matter, our measures can easily be incorporated into existing surveys with no disruption of continuity.

Additional Information

© 1994 Published by The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Southern Political Science Association. Manuscript submitted 6 April 1993; Final manuscript received 17 December 1993. Previous versions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 1992, and the Ninth Political Methodology Conference, Harvard University, July 16-19, 1992. We thank Steve Ansolabehere, Stanley Feldman, Simon Jackman, and Robert Luskin for their comments. We also thank participants in seminar discussions at both the University of California-Riverside and the University of California-San Diego for their insights. We are especially indebted to the Letters and Science Survey Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for support of our data collection.

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