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Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, TESS2104 Singer, The Effect of Question Wording on Preferences for Genetic Testing and Abortion




Singer, E., & Couper, M. P. (2021, June 15). Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, TESS2104 Singer, The Effect of Question Wording on Preferences for Genetic Testing and Abortion.


TESS conducts general population experiments on behalf of investigators throughout the social sciences. General population experiments allow investigators to assign representative subject populations to experimental conditions of their choosing. Faculty and graduate students from the social sciences and related fields (such as law and public health) propose experiments. A comprehensive, on-line submission and peer review process screens proposals for the importance of their contribution to science and society.

This question-wording experiment was designed to see whether using the term "fetus" rather than "baby" to ask questions would alter public preferences about prenatal testing for genetic defects and for abortion if a test revealed such defects. From 1990 through 2010, the GSS questions about prenatal testing and abortion were framed in terms of "baby" - for example: "Today, tests are being developed that make it possible to detect serious genetic defects before a baby is born." After the 2010 results were released, some researchers questioned whether the answers might have been different had the questions been framed in terms of "fetus" rather than "baby" because the word "fetus" may carry a more abstract, impersonal connotation than "baby" and might therefore lead to more frequent expressions of preferences for prenatal testing and abortion. To resolve this issue and provide guidance for future administrations of these questions in the GSS, the investigators designed a question-wording experiment fielded by TESS.

Data File

Cases: 1570
Variables: 44
Weight Variable: WEIGHT

Data Collection


Original Survey (Instrument)

TESS2 104 - Singer_FINAL

Funded By

National Science Foundation

Collection Procedures

Online survey respondents are randomly selected into one of two experimental conditions ("baby" vs. "fetus") and one of two different versions of the question (Version 1 or Version 2). This creates four experimental conditions altogether.

See the original survey item for question wording of the experimental conditions.

Sampling Procedures

TESS provides investigators an opportunity to run Internet-based experiments on a random, probability-based sample of the population. To achieve a representative sample, we contract with GfK (formerly Knowledge Networks), which conducts surveys using its KnowledgePanel. KnowledgePanel is a nationally representative, probability-based web panel based on dual-frame sampling that combines traditional random-digit-dialing telephone surveying techniques with an address-based technique that allows the sample to be representative of cell-phone-only households as well as those with land-lines. Additional data and study materials can be downloaded here.

Principal Investigators

Eleanor Singer, University of Michigan
Mick P. Couper, University of Michigan


For any additional information regarding TESS data, please visit the original website here.

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