I blogged previously about how scholars might go about studying the tea bag movement, at least with a survey approach, and along the way I rattled off some possible ways we might measure self-identification as a tea bagger, or at least as a sympathizer with the movement.
We could ask folks if they consider themselves part of the movement in a yes-no format, but that's unsatisfying. We could ask them how closely they identify with the movement and get some 1-to-7 scale to provide more statistical power. We could ask about some tea bag movement favorite topics (big government, socialism, birther issues about Obama, etc.), but I'm not sure we could capture, or afford to capture, all the issues both serious and wacky that causes individuals to identify with the movement or attend rallies.
What I failed to get into earlier was the media angle to such research.
The obvious one is where people get their news. We'd offer all the favorites, from Fox to CNN to Limbaugh to Letterman, your basic measures of media exposure. But I'd also want measures of attitudes toward the news media because I suspect we'd find a lot of interesting explanatory power in those "trust" items.
I'd want to go deeper.
I'd create a matrix in which respondents compared major news sources against one another. How much is CNN like Fox? CNN like MSNBC? CNN like the major broadcast networks? Etc. etc. In other words, pick a good dozen likely news sources and -- I admit this would take forever in a phone survey -- compare each item against all the others. The end result? Multidimentional scaling would take the data and paint us a pretty picture of how tea baggers versus, I suppose, non-baggers, view the mediaverse. You could do this in two-dimensional or three-dimensional space. This is kinda cool stuff -- which proves my inner-geek, but also informative at how folks organize the media world in their heads.
Of course that's too many questions for an ANES survey, which honestly would struggle in a pool of a couple of thousand randomly selected folks to get more than a coupla hundred tea baggers. So that's out. This calls for going into the field, to those wacky rallies, and wrestling down some respondents.
The results would be fascinating.