Population Survey Features and Response Rates: A Randomized Experiment
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OBJECTIVES: To study the effects of several survey features on response rates in a general population health survey. METHODS: In 2012 and 2013, 8000 households in British Columbia, Canada, were randomly allocated to 1 of 7 survey variants, each containing a different combination of survey features. Features compared included administration modes (paper vs online), prepaid incentive ($2 coin vs none), lottery incentive (instant vs end-of-study), questionnaire length (10 minutes vs 30 minutes), and sampling frame (InfoCanada vs Canada Post). RESULTS: The overall response rate across the 7 groups was 27.9% (range = 17.1-43.4). All survey features except the sampling frame were associated with statistically significant differences in response rates. The survey mode elicited the largest effect on the odds of response (odds ratio [OR] = 2.04; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.61, 2.59), whereas the sampling frame showed the least effect (OR = 1.14; 95% CI = 0.98, 1.34). The highest response was achieved by mailing a short paper survey with a prepaid incentive. CONCLUSIONS: In a mailed general population health survey in Canada, a 40% to 50% response rate can be expected. Questionnaire administration mode, survey length, and type of incentive affect response rates.
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