Attitudes and Comprehension of Terms in Opinion Questions About Euthanasia

Maile O'Hara, Michael F. Schober


How do people's interpretations of terms in questions affect the opinions they report? Consider a survey where respondents are asked to rate the extent to which they endorse the statement "I support euthanasia," and how firmly they hold that opinion. Might a respondent's notion of what counts as euthanasia-what the word "euthanasia" means-influence the attitudes the respondent reports? We propose that an important and understudied component of response to attitude questions involves comprehension of terms in the questions. Although the comprehension of terms in questions has long been recognized as an important component of responding to questions about facts and behaviors (see, Tourangeau, Rips, & Rasinski, 2000), little attention has been paid to how comprehension might affect responses to attitude questions. We argue that the same processes are at work.

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