Higher Response Rates - at What Price? Effects of Different Strategies to Increase Participation By Motivating (Un)Motivated Participants

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: 416
Oral Presentation
Daniela WETZELHÜTTER , Department of Empirical Social Science Research, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria
Different approaches – e.g. normative explanations, rational choice models or social exchange frameworks – have been used to explain motives on survey participation. This paper deals with one of them, the rational choice theory.

However, both commitment (e.g. triggered by appeals to attend to social norms (Misra et al, 2011)) and consideration of benefit/cost ratio (e.g. positively influenced by incentives) are regarded as decisive for survey participation – at least for the initial items. These strategies may result in higher response rates but also in satisficing (“Instead of generating the most accurate answer, respondents settle for merely satisfactory ones”(Krosnick, 1999)). Consequently, the longer a survey takes to finish “No-Opinion-Responses” (ibid) but also “Non-Responses” are expected to be more likely and both may affect data quality.

The central issue of this paper is to examine the effect of different motivating strategies on refusals to answer. For this reason experimental arrangements were included in a survey dealing with student participation at university. The survey population was randomly divided into several groups. The information provided to each group differed concerning the presence and combination of the following “triggers”:

i) the possibility to make profits (incentives),

ii) appeals to social conscience (commitment) and

iii) information on duration and progress (related to effort/burden).

Additionally the answer categories of several questions varied with regard to including a “No-Opinion-Option” to control for satisficing. Finally, pros and cons of the presented “manipulations” in order to gain higher response rates will be discussed.


Krosnick, J. A. (1999): Survey Research. Annual Review of Psychology, 50. (537-567).

Misra, S.; Stokols, D.; Marino A. H. (2011): Using Norm-Based Appeals to Increase Response Rates in Evaluation Research: A Field Experiment. Sage. Download: http://aje.sagepub.com/content/33/1/88.full.pdf+html, 2013-09-20.