Additional information for selected variables

Many of the variables are relatively straightforward and need little explanation, but some types of variables require more thorough explanation, and this is provided below.

  1. There are several feeling thermometer items (V008-V009, V048-V051), which asked the respondent to indicate his or her feeling toward a specific candidate or party by placing that person or party on a feeling thermometer that ranges from 0 to 100 degrees, where 50 degrees represents a neutral feeling, higher temperatures represent warmer or more positive feelings, and lower temperatures represent cooler or more negative feelings. Placements on the feeling thermometers have been collapsed into five categories for ease of analysis.

  2. There are a number of issue-position scales, each of which has a seven-point scale that represents possible positions that people might take on a specific issue. For example, there is an issue-position scale on government services and spending (V105), and the possible positions on the scale run from "provide many fewer services to reduce spending a lot" to "provide many more services, even if it means increased spending." Respondents were asked to place themselves on this scale according to their feelings on the issue. Only the end points of the seven-point scale are defined; respondents who feel that they fall between the two extremes can place themselves on one of the middle points. All of the issue-position scales have this basic structure.

  3. There are candidate-placement scales that indicate how the respondents felt that Bush or Kerry stood on the issues. They are similar in structure to the issue-position scales to which they correspond. For example, respondents were asked where they thought Bush and Kerry stood on the defense spending scale. These two candidate-placement scales (V084, V085) have seven possible categories, running from "We should spend much less on defense" to "We should greatly increase defense spending," just like the issue-position scale for defense spending (V083). The difference is that V083 measures where the respondent falls on this scale, whereas V084 and V085 measure where the respondent thinks that Bush and Kerry fall on the scale. The usefulness of the candidate placement scales is that by using them in combination with the item that measures the respondent's position, one can see how closely the respondent felt he or she was to each of the two major candidates on the respective issue.

  4. There are several indices that summarize how a respondent answered two or more questions that are related to a single topic. For example, the political efficacy index (V142) is based on how the respondent answered four questions dealing with feelings about the ability of people to influence government. Respondents in the "high" category generally answered the questions in a very "positive" or "efficacious" manner. Respondents in the "low" category generally gave very inefficacious responses, and those in between gave mixed responses. Other indices include V018, V128, V138, V139, V140, and V141. These indices were constructed because each better measures the underlying concept than does any one of the specific questions that were used to construct the index. Note: it is possible for you to construct additional indices by using the recoding program in DAS/SDA.