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#19 - Viewers surveyed immediately after the televised

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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken—CE. The correct answer choice is (D)

This stimulus presents a causal conclusion in which the stimulus author chooses (poorly) between two potential causes for a candidate’s election win.

Last year there was a televised political debate between Lopez and Tanner. Viewers surveyed immediately after the debate tended to think that Lopez had made the better argument, and Lopez later won the election. The stimulus author treats the fact that Lopez won the election as evidence that the survey respondents who reported favoring Lopez’s debate arguments did so because they were biased in Lopez’s favor.

This conclusion is causal and, like all causal conclusions in the Logical Reasoning section, it is flawed. The author considers the bias in Lopez’s favor to be a cause that led to at least two results: the survey responses and the election result.

    C ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... E

    ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... survey result

    bias ..... :arrow: ..... +

    ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... election result

However, it may be that the survey result led to the election result, or that some other cause, such as Lopez’s talent, that led to both the survey and the election results. In fact, it likely was a mixture of various elements that led to Lopez’s victory. The prephrase in this Weaken question is that the correct answer choice will attack the causal conclusion by showing that bias in favor of Lopez may not have produced the survey results favoring Lopez. Move to the answer choices with this prephrase, and do not spend time trying to predict precisely how the correct answer choice will accomplish this.

Answer choice (A): The fact that most people who voted in the election did not watch the debate is irrelevant to the conclusion, because the conclusion was limited to the issue of whether some of those who did watch the debate were biased in favor of Lopez.

Answer choice (B): This information is not relevant to the conclusion, which considered only that those respondents who reported that Lopez’s arguments were more persuasive may have been biased in favor of Lopez.

Answer choice (C): This answer choice is incorrect, because the likelihood of those who watched the televised debate to vote for Tanner rather than Lopez is not relevant to the question of whether those respondents who stated that Lopez was more persuasive responded the way they did because of bias.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice. The evidence in the stimulus established that the debate viewers surveyed immediately after the debate tended to think Lopez had made better arguments. The argument concludes that those who responded favorably for Lopez did so because they were biased in favor of Lopez. However, if it is the case that most of the viewers surveyed prior to the debate said they would probably vote for Tanner, Lopez’s opponent, then this casts some doubt on the conclusion that the survey respondents answered the way they did because of a bias toward Lopez. This answer choice does not prove that the respondents at issue were not biased toward Lopez, but it does cast some doubt on the conclusion.

Answer choice (E): The margin of Lopez’s victory has no relevance to the question of whether the survey respondents who said Lopez’s arguments were better during the televised debate were biased in his favor.
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I chose D because it was clearly the best answer, but I was a little concerned about one detail. It never specifies that the people surveyed before were the same ones they surveyed after. So it could've been the case that they didn't have a representative sample before the debate and in fact, more people were planning to vote for Lopez from the onset. So their bias still factored into their response to the survey. Is there an assumption that the survey results wouldn't have been terribly unrepresentative? Or am I maybe being too cautious about this, as the testmakers sometimes like to use survey misinformation in their own questions.
Brook Miscoski
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It is true that you could get into the weeds on a number of issues. Did Tanner supporters have an earlier bedtime, and go to sleep rather than responding to the post-debate survey? Is it actually necessary to avoid re-surveying initial respondents because people who have already given one answer may be unwilling to change it, and is your group size big enough that eliminating them from the second survey isn't a problem? But barring some weirdness or technicality that requires statistical training, it doesn't matter whether the same people took the first survey as took the second survey. A couple random surveys of the same group (viewers) at different times should describe the group attitudes at different times.

So yeah, on this one just don't overthink it. It's a weaken question, and this answer choice gives you a strong reason to think viewers weren't biased, they were won over.