The Problem of Declining Response Rates
As Americans are now faced with more demands on their time, they are exercising more choice over when and how they can be contacted. The growth in the number of unsolicited telephone calls has also resulted in people employing more sophisticated technology for screening their calls (e.g., voice mail, caller identification, call blocking and privacy managers). This has resulted in fewer people participating in telephone polls than was the case when telephone surveys first became prevalent. As a consequence, response rates have continued to decline over the past decade.
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has conducted two survey experiments to gauge the effects of respondent cooperation on the validity of the results. These experiments compare responses from a standard survey, conducted with commonly utilized polling procedures over a five-day field period, with a survey conducted over a much longer period that employed more rigorous techniques aimed at obtaining a higher response rate and interviewing more difficult to reach respondents.
Findings from both the 2003 study Polls Face Growing Resistance, But Still Representative and the 1997 study Conservative Opinions Not Underestimated, But Racial Hostility Missed indicate that carefully conducted polls continue to obtain representative samples of the public and provide accurate data about the views and experiences of Americans. These results are also reported in Public Opinion Quarterly.
- Gauging the Impact of Growing Nonresponse on Estimates from a National RDD Telephone Survey (2006) Public Opinion Quarterly 70: 759-779.
- Polls Face Growing Resistance, But Still Representative April 20, 2004
- Consequences of Reducing Nonresponses in a National Telephone Survey (2000) Public Opinion Quarterly 64:125-148.
- Conservative Opinions Not Underestimated, But Racial Hostility Missed March 27, 1998