Social Distance and Response Styles in Balanced Attitudinal Scales
In order to explore the extent to which response styles reduce the reliability and validity of attitudinal scales, this article compares three types of response styles including extreme response, middle response, and acquiescence, and their associations with the characteristics of the respondent and the interviewer, social distance and interview situation between fully balanced and minimally balanced scales. Five-point agreement scales across different contents in a questionnaire collected from a face-to-face survey were employed as the example. Data analyzed is from the Taiwan Social Change Survey concerning national identity. A paired-samples t test indicated that response styles are more frequent in minimally balanced scales than in fully balanced scales. Two-level Hierarchical Poisson and Linear Regression Models showed that response styles are significantly affected by social distances. Extreme response is influenced by gender, marital status, education and age distances, while middle response is affected by gender, marital status and age distances. Marital status and age distances influence the tendency to acquiesce. The social-distance effects on extreme and middle response are more significant in minimally balanced scales than in fully balanced scales. Similar results were not found on acquiescence. Although minimally balanced scales can detect response styles, fully balanced scales are recommended due to less response bias in comparison with minimally balanced scales.