AI-Augmented Surveys: Leveraging Large Language Models and Surveys for Opinion Prediction [imputation]

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Large language models (LLMs) that produce human-like responses have begun to revolutionize research practices in the social sciences. This paper shows how we can integrate LLMs and social surveys to accurately predict individual responses to survey questions that were not asked before. We develop a novel methodological framework to personalize LLMs by considering the meaning of survey questions derived from their text, the latent beliefs of individuals inferred from their response patterns, and the temporal contexts across different survey periods through fine-tuning LLMs with survey data. Using the General Social Survey from 1972 to 2021, we show that the fine-tuned model based on Alpaca-7b can predict individual responses to survey questions that are partially missing as well as entirely missing. The remarkable prediction capabilities allow us to fill in missing trends with high confidence and pinpoint when public attitudes changed, such as the rising support for same-sex marriage. We discuss practical constraints, socio-demographic representation, and ethical concerns regarding individual autonomy and privacy when using LLMs for opinion prediction. This study demonstrates that LLMs and surveys can mutually enhance each other’s capabilities: LLMs broaden survey potential, while surveys improve the alignment of LLMs.

Ryan Watkins