Problem Set 0: Bias in Self-reported Turnout

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Surveys are frequently used to measure political behavior such as voter turnout, but some researchers are concerned about the accuracy of self-reports. In particular, they worry about possible social desirability bias where in post-election surveys, respondents who did not vote in an election lie about not having voted because they may feel that they should have voted. Is such a bias present in the American National Election Studies (ANES)? The ANES is a nation-wide survey that has been conducted for every election since 1948. The ANES conducts face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of adults. The table below displays the names and descriptions of variables in the turnout.csv data file.

Name Description
year Election year
ANES ANES estimated turnout (percentage)
VEP Voting Eligible Population (in thousands)
VAP Voting Age Population (in thousands)
total Total ballots cast for highest office (in thousands)
felons Total ineligible felons (in thousands)
noncitizens Total non-citizens (in thousands)
overseas Total eligible overseas voters (in thousands)
osvoters Total ballots counted by overseas voters (in thousands)

Question 1

Load the data into R and assign it the name turnout. Save two objects, t_dim and year_range that are the dimensions of the data and the range of the year variable. Use these to answer the following questions (in the text): How many observations are there? What is the range of years covered in this data set?

Question 2

Create two new variables in the data set:

  • turnout$VAPtr: the turnout rate (as a percentage) based on the voting age population or VAP. Note that for this data set, we must add the total number of eligible overseas voters since the VAP variable does not include these individuals in the count.
  • turnout$VEPtr: the turnout rate (as a percentage) based on the voting eligible population or VEP.

Create a table using the line of code knitr::kable(turnout[,c("year", "VAPtr", "VEPtr")]). What difference do you observe between the different measures of turnout?

Question 3

Compute the difference between the ANES and VAP estimates of turnout rate and the difference between the ANES and VEP estimates of turnout. Save these as new columns in the data called turnout$diffVAP and turnout$diffVEP. How big are each of these differences on average? What is the range of the differences?