Why do people participate in Web surveys? Applying survey participation theory to Internet survey data collection

Abstract

In recent years Web surveys have emerged as the most popular mode of primary data collection in market and social research. To improve our understanding about the influence of different societal-level factors, characteristics of the sample person, and attributes of the survey design on participation in Web surveys, this paper establishes a systematic link between theoretical frameworks used to explain survey participation behavior and state-of-the-art empirical research on online data collection methods. The concepts of self-perception, cognitive dissonance, commitment and involvement, social exchange, compliance, leverage-salience, and planned behavior are discussed and their relationship with factors that have empirically proven to influence Web survey participation are analyzed using data from an expert survey. This paper will help researchers and practitioners to make informed decisions about the use of techniques increasing participation in Web surveys.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Strictly speaking, commitment and involvement are individual determinants of (non)participation in a survey and not a theory per se. However, for the purpose of this paper I will use Albaum and Smith (2012)’s terminology and treat ‘commitment/involvement’ as equivalent to other, more established theoretical frameworks of survey participation.

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Acknowledgments

The author thanks the editor and two anonymous reviewers as well as Eleanor Singer and Chris Antoun for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper and Chris Antoun and Chan Zhang for their feedback on the expert survey.

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Correspondence to Florian Keusch.

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Keusch, F. Why do people participate in Web surveys? Applying survey participation theory to Internet survey data collection. Manag Rev Q 65, 183–216 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11301-014-0111-y

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Keywords

  • Empirical market and social research
  • Survey methodology
  • Web survey participation behavior
  • Self-perception theory
  • Cognitive dissonance theory
  • Commitment
  • Involvement
  • Social exchange theory
  • Compliance heuristics
  • Leverage-salience theory
  • Theory of planned behavior
  • Expert survey
  • Principal component analysis

JEL Classification

  • C380
  • C830
  • M310