This article reports a meta-analysis of 45 studies that explicitly compare the response obtained using a mail, telephone or face-to-face survey. The data analysis uses a generalized hierarchical linear model. Sampling procedure (e.g., local convenience sample, random general sample), saliency of topic, and research organization (university, government versus market research) had an effect on the response. On the average, the face-to-face condition achieved the highest completion rate (70.3%), the telephone survey the next highest (67.2%), and the mail survey the lowest (61.3%). There is a significant interaction with the year of publication: The response to face-to-face and telephone surveys is going down in the period covered by this analysis (1947 to 1992), but the response to mail surveys is going up slightly. We attribute this to the large amount of research on nonresponse problems with mail surveys, and recommend more research and development in this direction for face-to-face and telephone methods.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bangert-Drowns, R. L. (1986). Review of developments in meta-analytic method,Psychological Bulletin 99: 388–399.
Betlehem, J. G. & Kersten, H. M. P. (1981). The nonresponse problem,Survey Methodology 7: 130–156.
Bryk, A. S. & Raudenbusch, S. W. (1992).Hierarchical Linear Models: Applications and Data Analysis Methods. Newbury Park: Sage.
De Leeuw, E. D. (1992).Data Quality in Mail, Telephone and Face-to-Face Surveys. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit (Doctoral dissertation).
Dillman, D. A. (1978).Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method. New York: Wiley.
Dillman, D. A. (1991). The design and administration of mail surveys,Annual Review of Sociology 17: 225–249.
Fox, R. J., Crask, M. R., & Kim, J. (1988). Mail survey response rate; A meta-analysis of selected techniques for inducing response,Public Opinion 52: 467–491.
Goldstein, H. (1987).Multilevel Methods in Educational and Social Research. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goldstein, H. (1991). Nonlinear multilevel models, with an application to discrete response data,Biometrika 78: 45–51.
Glass, G. V., McGaw, B. & Smith, M. L. (1981).Meta-Analysis in Social Research. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Goyder, J. (1987).The Silent Minority. Cambridge: Blackwell.
Groves, R. M. & Kahn, R. L. (1979).Surveys by Telephone, A National Comparison with Personal Interviews. New York: Academic Press.
Groves, R. M. (1989).Survey Errors and Survey Costs. New York: Wiley.
Groves, R. M. & Lyberg, L. E. (1988). An overview of nonresponse issues in telephone surveys, pp. 191–212 in R. M. Groves, P. P. Biemer, L. E. Lyberg, J. T. Massey, W. L. Nicholls II, & J. Waksberg (eds),Telephone Survey Methodology. New York: Wiley.
Heberlein, T. A. & Baumgartner, R. (1978). Factors affecting response rates to mailed questionnaires: A quantitative analysis of the published literature,American Sociological Review 43: 447–462.
Hedges, L. V. & Olkin, I. (1985).Statistical Methods for Meta-Analysis. Orlando: Academic Press.
Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (1990).Methods of Meta-Analysis. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Jaccard, J., Turrisi, R. & Wan, C. K. (1990).Interaction Effects in Multiple Regression. Newbury Park: Sage.
Longford, N. T. (1988).A Quasi-Likelihood Adaptation for Variance Component Analysis. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Longford, N. T. (1990). VARCL.Software for Variance Component Analysis of Data with Nested Random Effects (Maximum Likelihood). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Lyberg, I. & Lyberg, L. (1990). Nonresponse Research at Statistics Sweden. Paper presented at the First Workshop on Household Survey Nonresponse. Stockholm, Oct. 15–17, 1990.
McCullagh, P. & Nelder, J. A. (1989).Generalized Linear Models. London: Chapman & Hall.
Rosenthal, R. (1984).Meta-Analytic Procedures for Social Research. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Rosenthal, R. & Rubin, D. B. (1986). Meta-analytic procedures for combining studies with multiple effect sizes,Psychological Bulletin 99: 400–406.
Steeh, C. G. (1981). Trends in nonresponse rates, 1952–1979,Public Opinion Quarterly, 45. Reprinted as pp. 32–49 in E. Singer & S. Presser (1989),Survey Research Methods, A Reader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sugiyama, M. (1992). Response and non-response, pp. 227–239 in L. Lebart (Ed.),Quality of Information in Sample Surveys. Paris: Dunod.
Wong, G. Y. & Mason, W. M. (1985). The hierarchical logistic regression model for multilevel analysis. Extensions of the hierarchical normal linear model for multilevel analysis,Journal of the American Statistical Association 80: 513–524.
Yu, J., & Cooper, H. (1983). A quantitative review of research design effects on response rates to questionnaires,Journal of Marketing Research 23: 36–44.
About this article
Cite this article
Hox, J.J., De Leeuw, E.D. A comparison of nonresponse in mail, telephone, and face-to-face surveys. Qual Quant 28, 329–344 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01097014
- Data Analysis
- Linear Model
- Significant Interaction
- Convenience Sample
- Sampling Procedure