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Improving Survey Response: Lessons Learned from the European Social Survey

Improving Survey Response: Lessons Learned from the European Social Survey

Ineke Stoop, Jaak Billiet, Achim Koch, Rory Fitzgerald

ISBN: 978-0-470-51669-0

Apr 2010

340 pages

In Stock



High response rates have traditionally been considered as one of the main indicators of survey quality. Obtaining high response rates is sometimes difficult and expensive, but clearly plays a beneficial role in terms of improving data quality. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that simply boosting response to achieve a higher response rate will not in itself eradicate nonresponse bias. In this book the authors argue that high response rates should not be seen as a goal in themselves, but rather as part of an overall survey quality strategy based on random probability sampling and aimed at minimising nonresponse bias.

Key features of Improving Survey Response:

  • A detailed coverage of nonresponse issues, including a unique examination of cross-national survey nonresponse processes and outcomes.
  • A discussion of the potential causes of nonresponse and practical strategies to combat it.
  • A detailed examination of the impact of nonresponse and of techniques for adjusting for it once it has occurred.
  • Examples of best practices and experiments drawn from 25 European countries.
  • Supplemented by the European Social Survey (ESS) websites, containing materials for the measurement and analysis of nonresponse based on detailed country-level response process datasets.

The book is designed to help survey researchers and those commissioning surveys by explaining how to prioritise the reduction of nonresponse bias rather than focusing on increasing the overall response rate. It shows substantive researchers how nonresponse can impact on substantive outcomes.

1. Backgrounds of nonresponse

1.1. Introduction

1.2. Declining response rates

1.3. Total survey quality and nonresponse

1.4. Optimising comparability

2. Survey response in cross-national studies

2.1. Introduction

2.2. Harmonisation models

2.3. Contactability

2.4. Ability to cooperate

2.5. Willingness to cooperate

2.6. Nonresponse bias

2.7. Ethics and humans

3. The European Social Survey

3.1. Introduction

3.2. What is the European Social Survey?

3.3. ESS design and methodology

3.4. Nonresponse targets, strategies and documentation

3.5. Conclusions

4. Implementation of the European Social Survey

4.1. Introduction

4.2. Basic survey features

4.3. Practical fieldwork issues

4.4. Summary and conclusions

5. Response and nonresponse rates in the European Social Survey

5.1. Data and definitions

5.2. Response and nonresponse rates in ESS 3

5.3. Response rate differences and fieldwork efforts

6. Response enhancement through extended interviewer efforts

6.1. Introduction

6.2. Previous research on contactability

6.3. Previous research on cooperation

6.4. Sample type and recruitment mode in the European Social Survey

6.5. Establishing contact in the European Social Survey

6.6. Obtaining cooperation in the European Social Survey

6.7. Effects of enhanced field efforts in the European Social Survey

6.8. Conclusion

7. Refusal conversion

7.1. Introduction

7.2. Previous research

7.3. Refusal conversion in the ESS

7.4. Refusal conversion and data quality

7.5. Discussion and conclusions

8. Designs for detecting nonresponse bias and adjustment

8.1. What is nonresponse bias?

8.2. Methods for assessing nonresponse bias

8.4. Final conclusions

9. Lessons learned

9.1. Introduction

9.2. Standardisation, tailoring and control

9.3. Achieving high response rates

9.4. Refusal conversion

9.5. Nonresponse bias

9.6. Contact forms and fieldwork monitoring

9.7. Into the future