Abstract

Responses to survey questions are dependent on the words used in the questions. Sometimes the alteration of words can completely change the response distribution without obviously changing the meaning or intent of the question. This situation occurs when “welfare” is used instead of “poor.” In all contexts examined “welfare” produced much more negative and less generous responses than “poor.” In addition the two terms appear to tap slightly different dimensions with “welfare” accessing notions of waste and bureaucracy that are untapped or tapped much less by “poor.”

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