Beyond the Limits of Survey Experiments: How Conjoint Designs Advance Causal Inference in Political Communication Research
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
This paper calls attention to what is arguably the most notable advancement in survey experiments over the last decade: conjoint designs. The benefit of conjoint design is its capacity to study and compare the causal effects of several dimensions simultaneously. Althoughsurveyexperimentshavelongbeenapreferredmethodforassessingcausaleffects, the method falls short when studying multidimensional causal relations. Researchers face a trade-off between a lack of statistical power or a restriction in experimental conditions. Conjoint designs solve this problem by letting the researcher vary an indefinite number of factors in one experiment. This method is quickly gaining ground in social and political science but has yet to be widely practiced in political communication research. This article argues that conjoint designs are ideal for studying political communication effects and highlights the possible benefits of using and innovating conjoint designs in political communication research. We make available sample scripts and demonstrate the value of this methodological technique through empirical examples of trust in news media and selective exposure to political news.