Many people believe they have a responsibility to vote. But when a political pollster or survey taker asks, do you have a responsibility to tell the truth about who you’re voting for?
Approximately 10% of Americans admit they’ve lied to pollsters. In a close election, a 10% false answer rate is more than enough to confuse pundits, confound candidates, and contradict a predicted outcome, especially in the current presidential race.
“This election is exceptionally tricky,” says one pollster.
Perhaps the only thing that is predictable is what people lie about. “They’re not candid on questions about sex, violence in the house, a whole range of things that are tough to talk about,” says Andy Kohut, Director of the Pew Research Center. They’re also not candid about race and age. “People don’t want to be stigmatized,” Kohut explain
But researchers found that when people answer survey questions privately online, they’re less likely to lie than when they’re questioned by an interviewer, because they tend to say what they think the interviewer wants to hear.
In an experiment, 58% of those surveyed told a phone interviewer they exercise regularly. But when the same question was asked privately online, only 35% made the same claim. The oscillating honesty factor continued across a range of personal topics. 56% told an interviewer they regularly attend religious services, but when they answered privately online, that number dropped to only 25%. And when asked about drinking, 39% told an interviewer they had alcohol in the last week, but online, 53% ’fessed up.
Many political pollsters say they’re taking precautions and adding questions about age and race to current surveys in an effort to better predict the outcome of the November elections. But one expert has a reminder of why we shouldn’t be so surprised when the predictions don’t match the vote, saying, “That’s what anonymous voting allows.”
Tell us what you think: Do you have a responsibility to tell the truth to pollsters? Have you ever mislead a survey taker with inaccurate information? How and why?