Measuring what people value: a comparison of "attitude" and "preference" surveys

Health Serv Res. 2002 Dec;37(6):1659-79. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.01116.


Objective: To compare and contrast methods and findings from two approaches to valuation used in the same survey: measurement of "attitudes" using simple rankings and ratings versus measurement of "preferences" using conjoint analysis. Conjoint analysis, a stated preference method, involves comparing scenarios composed of attribute descriptions by ranking, rating, or choosing scenarios. We explore possible explanations for our findings using focus groups conducted after the quantitative survey.

Methods: A self-administered survey, measuring attitudes and preferences for HIV tests, was conducted at HIV testing sites in San Francisco in 1999-2000 (n = 365, response rate = 96 percent). Attitudes were measured and analyzed using standard approaches. Conjoint analysis scenarios were developed using a fractional factorial design and results analyzed using random effects probit models. We examined how the results using the two approaches were both similar and different.

Results: We found that "attitudes" and "preferences" were generally consistent, but there were some important differences. Although rankings based on the attitude and conjoint analysis surveys were similar, closer examination revealed important differences in how respondents valued price and attributes with "halo" effects, variation in how attribute levels were valued, and apparent differences in decision-making processes.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to compare attitude surveys and conjoint analysis surveys and to explore the meaning of the results using post-hoc focus groups. Although the overall findings for attitudes and preferences were similar, the two approaches resulted in some different conclusions. Health researchers should consider the advantages and limitations of both methods when determining how to measure what people value.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Serodiagnosis / psychology
  • AIDS Serodiagnosis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Care Surveys / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Values*