Jan Zajac (University of Warsaw) overviewed factors which can drive participation rates in online surveys, both to boost them and, in some cases, diminish them too. His own experiments, carried out in Poland, optimising email survey invitations to boost response found that including a picture of ‘the researcher’ made a surprisingly large improvement to response. Less surprisingly, pretty, young and female researchers seem best in pulling in the respondents – though not only from males but females too.
Pat Converse (Florida Institute of Technology) revisited Dillman’s Tailored Design Method to see the differences in response rates to in mixed-mode paper and web surveys, and the extent combining both best improves response. It seems paper is far from dead. His analysis across a wide range of published survey results results seem to show that a 34% response rate is about middling for Internet only surveys whereas mail surveys still typically achieve a 45% response. In his experiment, he looked at how effective using a second mode to follow up non-response at the first mode can be – and clearly it will improve response. Surprisingly, the greatest improvement was in following up a web survey invitation that had got nowhere, with an approach by mail: almost 50% of those approached responded, taking overall response to 72%. The best response came from mail first with web as the fall-back, though this is likely to be the most costly, per interview. Web first, with a switch to mail could hit the sweet spot in terms of cost, when a high response really matters – such as for a low incidence sample.
Presenters from National Statistics services in New Zealand, Singapore, Estonia and Colombia all provided insights into how web-based research had been helping them, and how they had been ensuring both high quality and acceptably high response in order to reach the entire population. This too was typically achieved by using the web as one channel in a multimodal approach. Web was generally favoured because of its cost and convenience, and empirically, speakers had observed little significant variation between the responses between modes. Even where internet pentration is still low, as it is in Colombia, with only around 12% of the population enjoying an Internet connection, online is used to supplement fieldwork carried out using 10,000 PDAs that use Geo-location.
As an event, these two days have effectively provided a cross-section of the state of current knowledge and inquiry into Internet research. There was talk of making the papers and presentations available, and if so, I’ll provide a link here.