There has been significant interest in a pair of May primary ballot questions that would change the state’s constitutional procedures for terminating a disaster emergency declaration. The Pennsylvania Department of State has written the text of two ballot questions, but Republican officials believe the proposed ballot wording is unfairly biased. We designed an experiment to test whether the wording of one of these ballot questions influences how voters respond.
Survey participants were randomly assigned to get one of two different question forms–the ballot initiative as it will appear on the May primary ballot (written by the PA Dept. of State) and a common language alternative (written by the Center for Opinion Research). In addition to the different question forms, respondents were also randomized into a condition where they received some background information about disaster emergency declarations or no background information.
The likelihood that a survey respondent answered “yes” that they were willing to change the state constitution differed depending on the format and information they received about the question. One in four (25%) of those who received the Dept. of State wording (DoS) answered “yes,” while about one in three (37%) of those who received the Dept. of State wording and background information (Info & DoS) answered “yes.” Two in five (42%) of those who received the common language wording (CL) responded “yes,” regardless of whether or not they received the background information (Info & CL).