The E. E. Schattschneider Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of American government.
Matt Graham lives in Philadelphia with his spouse and child. This fall he will start as an assistant professor of political science at Temple University. Matt completed his Ph.D. at Yale, followed by a postdoc at George Washington University. When he’s not hunched over a computer or playing with his fun and expressive little baby, you’ll find him biking, gardening, or salvaging discarded furniture.
Citation from the Award Committee:
In “Misperceiving Misperceptions: How Surveys Distort the Nature of Partisan Belief Differences,” Dr. Matthew Graham carefully analyzes contemporary survey practices and their implications for the conclusions drawn from survey-based research. In speaking to the discipline, “Misperceiving Misperceptions” also argues about issues at the leading edge of interpreting public opinion in the United States, a matter of concern for political candidates, pollsters, and the general public. Dr. Graham argues that survey methodology and common interpretation of responses leads to overstating the extent of partisan division. Given widespread concerns about what partisan division as demonstrated in survey responses means for democracy in the United States, “Misperceiving Misperceptions” also speaks to interpreting whether there are common frames for knowledge in the United States. Revising how we interpret surveys could contribute to revising public reporting about opinion.
Dr. Graham’s “Misperceiving Misperceptions” addresses issues at the leading edge of interpreting public opinion in the United States by critiquing common survey practices. The dissertation argues that interpretations of survey research rely on contested understandings of what it means to have a belief, which attribute a level of certainty to survey responses that respondents may not have. Dr. Graham introduces a theoretical model of survey responding that accounts for respondents’ varying levels of confidence in the response options on offer. Through original survey experiments and re-analysis of previous survey data, Dr. Graham’s dissertation shows that survey respondents are often more aware of limits to their knowledge than analysts often conclude. Dr. Graham further shows that some contemporary conclusions about partisan divisions in political (mis)perceptions are due to measurement practices rather than partisans’ tendencies to believe falsehoods. On the basis of the findings in the dissertation, Dr. Graham recommends a set of best practices that would improve the quality of survey research and the interpretation of data collected through surveys.
We would like to commend Dr. Graham for the exceedingly high quality of his dissertation research. We believe it will have far-reaching impact both within and beyond the discipline of political science.
APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Dr. Susan M. Sterett (chair) of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Dr. Lori Cox Han of Chapman University, and Dr. Jon C. Rogowski of the University of Chicago.