When it comes to questions about radicalization, interview and poll respondents may lie to avoid detection by security services, to minimize their responsibility for damaging and illegal behaviors, or to project a more socially acceptable persona to the researchers—or even to themselves! The biased direction of these misrepresentations makes them a greater threat to a survey than the more random perturbations that result from misunderstanding the question or making up an answer to avoid looking ignorant. Here we review seven ways to encourage and assess the validity of answers to sensitive questions, especially questions about political radicalization. One way is to compare personal opinion with meta-opinion—opinion about the opinions of others. We conclude by highlighting the link between meta-opinions and opinions posted on social media: both measure the power of social norms.
McCauley, Clark, Sophia Moskalenko, and Tom McCauley. 2018. "Encouraging and Assessing the Validity of Answers to Questions about Radicalization: The Use of Meta-opinions." SMA White Paper (March). https://nsiteam.com/what-do-others-think-and-how-do-we-know-what-they-are-thinking/