Word Association Tests for Political Science (with Ze Han)
Abstract. The standard practice to measuring political attitudes is to ask survey respondents to map their feelings onto a quantitative scale determined by the researcher. This approach, while widespread, suffers from a number of well-known problems. Such questions can be cognitively demanding, scales are different across cultures and even individuals of the same culture, and complex attitudes are reduced to a single number. In this paper, we advance the use of Word Association Tests (WATs), where respondents are presented a series of target words and asked to provide other words that come to mind as quickly as possible. This approach more directly maps to how attitudes actually operate in the human mind, and it provides a richer set of data than a standard survey question. The paper develops and demonstrates the utility of WATs through an analysis of Chinese citizens' attitudes towards the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).