, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 281-290

Demographic Question Placement: Effect on Item Response Rates and Means of a Veterans Health Administration Survey

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Abstract

Purpose

This study examined whether demographic question placement affects demographic and non-demographic question completion rates, non-demographic item means, and blank questionnaire rates using a web-based survey of Veterans Health Administration employees.

Methodology

Data were taken from the 2010 Voice of the Veterans Administration Survey (VoVA), a voluntary, confidential, web-based survey offered to all VA employees. Participants were given two versions of the questionnaires. One version had demographic questions placed at the beginning and the other version had demographic questions placed at the end of the questionnaire.

Findings

Results indicated that placing demographic questions at the beginning of a questionnaire increased item response rate for demographic items without affecting the item response rate for non-demographic items or the average of item mean scores.

Implications

In addition to validity issues, a goal for surveyors is to maximize response rates and to minimize the number of missing responses. It is therefore important to determine which questionnaire characteristics affect these values. Results of this study suggest demographic placement is an important factor.

Originality/Value

There are various opinions about the most advantageous location of demographic questions in questionnaires; however, the issue has rarely been examined empirically. This study uses an experimental design and a large sample size to examine the effects of demographic placement on survey response characteristics.

The contents do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the US Government.