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26 October 2006

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Laura Beth Nielsen

As to my research -- really. The state of the theory in the critical race world was that people of color would favor legal regulation of hate speech (not true in my study) and in political science, Stouffer ruled the day (support for first amendment goes up with education and income). Of course Stouffer is old and was askign about different stuff in a different period.

I found something totally different (and, by the way, not at all what I was expecting). So, I don't think so --

Sure, you could test it with carefully worded closed ended questions now (and it would eb really cool if someone did!), but I don't think anything out there in the field could have led me to predict these things before I started.

Christopher Zorn

"These mechanisms that produce the ultimate attitude (against regulation of speech) could only be uncovered through qualitative research."

Really? Wouldn't a set of (appropriately-worded) survey questions have accomplished the same thing, only quantitatively? Admittedly, one could argue that, in order to know what questions to ask, one could take a qualitative approach (doing open-ended interviews, holding focus groups, whatever). But it also strikes me that (depending on the circumstances) one could also arrive at the "right" questions via theory, or (other) quantitative data, or by some other means.

More generally: I often hear that "there are some things that just can't be studied quantitatively." I am not certain I believe that; but, more important here, I wonder if anyone reading this would believe that the reverse is true: That there are some things that just can't be studied qualitatively. (Aside: I think we'd all agree there are plenty of interesting phenomena amenable to both approaches, and that -- of those -- many are better studied using one approach than the other).

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