Levels of measurement are important because they serve as a way to think about both the amount of information available in a measure and the mathematical properties of the measure. In this exercise you are going to consider the amount of information available in variables that measure the same concept with different levels of measurement.
For each of the variables below, identify the level of measurement. Second, explain why one variable provides more information than the other. Finally, why might you prefer to use one measure over the other? Why is capturing more information important?
Variable #1: What is your highest completed level of education?
No formal education
High school College
Variable #2: How many years of formal education have you completed?
Herrmann, Tetlock, and Visser1 define the disposition of military assertiveness as “the inclination toward different methods of defending American interests abroad, in particular, whether a person prefers more militant and assertive strategies or more accommodative and cooperative approaches.” To measure military assertiveness, they used ten items. For the first eight items, they asked respondents to indicate whether they strongly agreed, agreed, neither agreed nor disagreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the statement.
Which of the following items do you think are the most valid measures of the concept of military assertiveness and why? Which ones do you have trouble relating to the concept and why? What kind of validity (face or construct) do you think the items exhibit?
1. The best way to ensure world peace is through American military strength.
2. The use of military force only makes problems worse.
3. Rather than simply reacting to our enemies, it’s better for us to strike first.
4. Generally, the more influence America has with other nations, the better off they are.
5. People can be divided into two distinct classes: the weak and the strong.
6. The facts on crime, sexual immorality, and the recent public disorders all show that we have to crack down harder on troublemakers if we are going to save our moral standards and preserve law and order.
7. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
8. Although at times I may not agree with the government, my commitment to the United States always remains strong.
9. When you see the American flag flying, does it make you feel extremely good, somewhat good, or not very good?
10. How important is military defense spending to you personally: very important, important, or not at all important?
Most valid measures of the concept of military assertiveness:
Worst “fit” for concept:
Kind of validity:
1Richard K. Herrmann, Philip E. Tetlock, and Penny S. Visser, “Mass Public Decisions to Go to War: A Cognitive-
Interactionist Framework,” American Political Science Review 93 (September 1999): 554.
Operationalization is deciding how to record empirical observations of the occurrence of an attribute or a behavior using numerals or scores. In other words, it is deciding how to move from defined concept to quantifiable variable. In this exercise you are going to consider the challenges involved in quantifying both concrete and abstract concepts that are commonly used in political science research. You will find below a series of conceptualized terms.
Your job is to explain how you would operationalize each term for use in a survey research project by creating the questions that would yield the appropriate variable for each concept. (Hint: Concrete terms are much easier to work with than abstract terms. Pay close attention to the abstract terms, such as ideology and efficacy.) Example: Voter registration: Whether someone is currently registered to vote. Answer: Ask each respondent to indicate whether he or she is currently registered to vote by asking, “Are you currently registered to vote in your state?” (1) Yes, I am registered to vote; (0) No, I am not registered to vote.
1. Gender: Male and female
2. Household income: The amount of money earned by all members of a household in a year
3. Race: The race each respondent most closely identifies with
4. Ideology: A set of beliefs and ideas, including one’s moral code and worldview. The most important issues and ideas involve how the government should address those unable to provide food, health care, and housing for themselves and their children. The extent to which the government should extend services to support those in need in these areas makes up the worldview.
5. Political efficacy: The belief that one’s political action will have a meaningful effect. In particular
I define political action as interpersonal communication with elected officials.
Below you will find a series of hypotheses. For each hypothesis, 1) identify the independent and dependent variables, and 2) explain how you could measure each variable. When explaining your measurement strategy, be careful to consider validity and reliability.
1. Small business owners are more likely to support tax cuts than other voters.
2. The availability of government-subsidized childcare causes household income to rise.
3. An increase in the number of nongovernmental organizations operating in an authoritarian state increases the rate at which the state democratizes.
4. Access to clean drinking water causes life expectancy to increase.
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