Validity and Reliability Issues in Elite Interviewing

April, 2007

This paper discusses the art of interviewing and what interviewers need to consider when conducting interviews, to ensure data collected is valid and reliable.


Many of the early important empirical works on policymaking in Washington were built around elite interviews. We first learned about how Congress really operates from pioneers in elite interviewing such as Lewis Anthony Dexter (1969), Ralph Huitt (1969), and Donald Matthews (1960). No less revered is the scholarship of Richard Fenno (1978), John Kingdon (1995), and Robert Salisbury (1993), who have produced enduring and respected work from elite interviewing. Yet there are few other contemporary political scientists working on public policymaking who have built reputations for their methodological skills as interviewers. Elite interviewing is still widely used as the basis for collecting data, but most interviewing depends on a few trusted templates. Most commonly, elites in a particular institution are chosen at random and subjected to the same interview protocol composed of structured or semistructured questions. For example, state legislators are asked a series of questions about their attitudes on particular issues or institutional practices.

Full Reference

Berry J. “Validity and Reliability Issues in Elite Interviewing”. Political Science and Politics 2002; 35: 663-688.

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