This book examines surveys from a psychological perspective. It proposes a theory about how respondents answer questions in surveys, reviews the relevant psychological and survey literatures, and traces out the implications of the theories and findings for survey practice. We hope the book appeals to a variety of audiences, including survey researchers, methodologists, statisticians, and others who are involved in designing and carrying out surveys; political scientists, social psychologists, and others who study public opinion or who use data from public opinion surveys; cognitive psychologists and other researchers who are interested in everyday memory and judgment processes; and demographers, market researchers, sociologists, and anyone else who uses survey data and is curious about how such data come into being.
Although we have written the book to be read from cover to cover, we recognize that not every reader will share our enthusiasm for all the topics the book includes. Readers who are most interested in public opinion may want to focus on Chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8, skipping or skimming the other chapters. Those who care mostly about survey data on factual matters may want to focus instead on Chapters 1–5, 9, and 10. Those who are most interested in traditional issues in survey methodology, such as question order effects and differences across methods of data collection, may want to concentrate on Chapters 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11.