Quality & Quantity 37: 193–206, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Meaning Shift of Items in Different Language
Versions. A Cross-National Validation Study of the
Illegal Aliens Scale
KEES VAN DER VEER
Department of Social Research Methodology, Vrije Universiteit De Boelelaan 1081c, NL-1081 HV
Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Tel. +31 20 4446866; Fax: +31 20 4446810;
Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, P.O.Box 1094 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway. Tel.:
+47 22855223; Fax: +47 22854419; E-mail: email@example.com
Department of Methodology, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, P.O. Box
1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 10 4089594; Fax: +31 10 4089016;
KNUD S. LARSEN
Department of Psychology, Oregon State University, 102 Moreland Hall, CORVALLIS, Oregon
97331.5303, U.S.A. Tel.: 00 1 5037372311; Fax: 00 1 5417373547; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract. The 20-item Illegal Aliens Scale, which was developed and validated by Ommundsen
and Larsen at Oregon State University (1999), has been translated into Norwegian and Dutch. Cross-
national comparisons of attitudes require equivalence of measurement instruments (Rogler, 1999).
The results of a translation – back translation procedure and a split sample study by (Ommundsen et
al., in print) suggest that linguistic equivalence may not be sufﬁcient to detect other non-equivalence
of meaning in cross-national research. This paper discusses a follow-up methodological study of the
Dutch and Norwegian versions of this scale. This study consisted of two parts: (a) A ‘cognitive’ test
by means of the three-step test-interviews (Hak et al., 2001) with Dutch and Norwegian subjects. (b)
A comparative study of differences in political salience of the items of the scale between Norway
and the Netherlands. Results show that differences in historical, political and cultural context result
in different interpretations of seemingly straightforward concepts and that this affects how responses
to attitude items are constructed.
Key words: illegal immigrants, political salience, cognitive interviewing
1. Introduction: Attitudes and Reference Groups
From the well-known studies of meaning shift by Asch (1952) we know that know-
ledge about the source or ‘context’ of an attitude statement may radically affect the
interpretation of the very meaning of that statement. In one study subjects read the