Advantages, Challenges and Limitations of Audit Experiments with Constituents

Bischof, Daniel, Cohen, Gidon, Cohen, Sarah, Foos, Florian, Kuhn, Patrick Michael, Nanou, Kyriaki, Visalvanich, Neil and Vivyan, Nick (2021) Advantages, Challenges and Limitations of Audit Experiments with Constituents. Political Studies Review. p. 147892992110378. ISSN 1478-9299 (In Press)

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/14789299211037865

Abstract

Audit experiments examining the responsiveness of public officials have become an increasingly popular tool used by political scientists. While these studies have brought significant insight into how public officials respond to different types of constituents, particularly those from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds, audit studies have also been controversial due to their frequent use of deception. Scholars have justified the use of deception by arguing that the benefits of audit studies ultimately outweigh the costs of deceptive practices. Do all audit experiments require the use of deception? This article reviews audit study designs differing in their amount of deception. It then discusses the organizational and logistical challenges of a UK study design where all letters were solicited from MPs’ actual constituents (so-called confederates) and reflected those constituents’ genuine opinions. We call on researchers to avoid deception, unless necessary, and engage in ethical design innovation of their audit experiments, on ethics review boards to raise the level of justification of needed studies involving fake identities and misrepresentation, and on journal editors and reviewers to require researchers to justify in detail which forms of deception were unavoidable.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the BA/Leverhulm Small Research Grants scheme (SG 163019), which enabled the UK confederate design discussed here.
Uncontrolled Keywords: ethics, field experiment, audit study, UK politics
Subjects: L200 Politics
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2021 08:21
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2021 08:30
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/46928

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