This study expands upon existing knowledge of response rates by conducting a large-scale quantitative review of published response rates. This allowed a fine-grained comparison of response rates across respondent groups. Other unique features of this study are the analysis of response enhancing techniques across respondent groups and response rate trends over time. In order to aid researchers in designing surveys, we provide expected response rate percentiles for different survey modalities.
We analyzed 2,037 surveys, covering 1,251,651 individual respondents, published in 12 journals in I/O Psychology, Management, and Marketing during the period 1995–2008. Expected response rate levels were summarized for different types of respondents and use of response enhancing techniques was coded for each study.
First, differences in mean response rate were found across respondent types with the lowest response rates reported for executive respondents and the highest for non-working respondents and non-managerial employees. Second, moderator analyses suggested that the effectiveness of response enhancing techniques was dependent on type of respondents. Evidence for differential prediction across respondent type was found for incentives, salience, identification numbers, sponsorship, and administration mode. When controlling for increased use of response enhancing techniques, a small decline in response rates over time was found.
Our findings suggest that existing guidelines for designing effective survey research may not always offer the most accurate information available. Survey researchers should be aware that they may obtain lower/higher response rates depending on the respondent type surveyed and that some response enhancing techniques may be less/more effective in specific samples.
This study, analyzing the largest set of published response rates to date, offers the first evidence for different response rates and differential functioning of response enhancing techniques across respondent types.
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We would like to thank Katrien Vermeulen, Liesbet De Koster, Valerie Boulangier, Claire Hemelaer, Sophie Pczycki, Myrjam Van de Vijver, and Bernd Carette for their help in coding the studies.
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Anseel, F., Lievens, F., Schollaert, E. et al. Response Rates in Organizational Science, 1995–2008: A Meta-analytic Review and Guidelines for Survey Researchers. J Bus Psychol 25, 335–349 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-010-9157-6
- Response rate
- Response enhancing technique
- Respondent type