Assessing the validity of survey measures for news exposure through digital footprints: Evidence from Spain and the UK

Published in 'Political Communication'

This paper explores the accuracy of different question types - check-all, open-ended and forced choice - to gauge retrospective online news exposure. It combines survey and web-tracking data from participants in Spain and the UK.

Abstract: This paper assesses the performance of three commonly used type of questions – open-ended, check-all and forced choice – for capturing retrospective online news exposure, combining both survey and web-tracking data. It examines the performance of these different survey questions considering both systematic and random error in two unexplored non-US contexts: Spain and the UK. Results show that the check-all question produces on average the most accurate – i.e. less biased – estimates of observed exposure. Some motivational and cognitive factors underlying bias in self-reports are explored. Findings reveal that the characteristics of outlets are associated with systematic error. Finally, we find that media systems matter for accuracy – where media fragmentation is high (Spain), accuracy is low across all questions; where it is low (UK), accuracy is high across all questions. In the final section, we highlight the methodological and theoretical contributions of our study and provide some recommendations.

Full authors: Ana S. Cardenal, María Victoria-Mas, Silvia Majó-Vázquez, Ivan Lacasa-Mas