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The Effect of Incentives on Internet Surveys John M. Kennedy Judith A. Ouimet Indiana University Bloomington.

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Presentation on theme: "The Effect of Incentives on Internet Surveys John M. Kennedy Judith A. Ouimet Indiana University Bloomington."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Effect of Incentives on Internet Surveys John M. Kennedy Judith A. Ouimet Indiana University Bloomington

2 Why Provide Incentives To improve survey data quality – Higher response rates – Fewer breakoffs – Fewer missing items – More precise responses To improve the respondent experience – Respect for their time – Reward for cooperation

3 Improving Data Quality Most incentive research focuses on improvements in response rates Improved response rates do not necessarily indicate better quality survey data Better quality data is difficult to determine – Rarely are external data available to evaluate responses – Differences may be due to sampling

4 Incentives May Not Be the Solution Incentives may not be cost effective – Resources used for incentives might be used for other procedures that improve survey data quality Incentives may reduce survey data quality – Encourage respondents to complete to receive incentive – Reduced attention to survey questions – Trigger spam filters

5 Improving Respondent Experience Declining response rates may be due to badly designed surveys which demonstrate indifference to the respondent experience Improving respondent experience requires demonstration of respect for respondents time and effort Not all incentives show respect for all participants The research on incentives does not indicate which incentives work best under which conditions

6 Internet Survey Incentives More difficult to manage than postal, in- person, or telephone surveys – Often less contact information is available for Internet users – Distribution may require postal mailings – Additional costs and modes may take resources from the survey administration

7 Types of Incentives: Internet Only Non-contingent – Advanced cash or gift – All in sample entered into a lottery – Resources provided to those who do not participate – Generally requires postal mailing or requires additional effort of respondent to pick-up incentive

8 Contingent Incentives Usually easier to administer – Contact information can be gathered Types – Lotteries, cash, gift cards Provided to those who participate in the survey Reduced costs

9 Internet Survey Incentives Research Research conducted in US and Europe Mixed results – Not all incentives improve survey data quality Evaluation standards differ across studies – Some evaluate response rates, item nonresponse, breakoffs. – Many examine multiple indicators of survey data quality

10 Internet Survey Incentive Research 30 articles and chapters – Four meta-analyses or literature reviews Internet surveys only or main focus Either experiments or comparisons with similar surveys 15 conducted in the US and Canada; 11 in Europe Students, physicians, scientists, panels, etc.

11 More Incentives Research Non-contingent and Contingent Types – Cash – Gift cards – Lotteries Focus – Response rates – Item non-response – breakoffs

12 Response Rates Summary Overall – incentives appear to improve response rates Lotteries improve response rates often but not always Non-contingent almost always improve response rates Improvements are usually small

13 Other Outcomes Incentives generally reduce item non- response and breakoffs Cash is more effective than lotteries Incentives appear to improve response rates for the first wave of a panel only Incentives can have differential effects on different groups Incentives can affect survey responses

14 Summary Results are mixed Differences by groups, contingency, stage of survey process, etc. Cost effectiveness is not easily determined Incentives are determined by the researchers, not the participants – Not necessarily respect the participants choice – May reduce effectiveness with the wrong incentives

15 Student Survey Example National Survey of Student Engagement Survey of undergraduates in US and Canada Started in 2000 Generally lower response rates than desired Incentives offered differentially – Universities offer incentives – Different incentives over time

16 NSSE and IUB Response rates declining over time Higher response rates desired Incentives introduced in 2010 Follow-up survey to determine reasons for participation or non-participation Asked about incentives that would make response more likely

17 NSSE 2001-2009 Response rates & Trend line

18 Incentives Offered 2010 Every responder received a free soda at the IMU Prizes: – 5 iPods – 2 lunch for 4 at the Tudor Room – 50 semester lockers & towel service – 25 CycleFit 3 session punchcards


20 Incentive Survey Process Surveyed students after the NSSE survey ended Created three questionnaires with focused response options depending on whether students participated in the survey or did not. – Respondents – Non-respondents First year students Seniors Most questions focused on reasons for participation or non- participation Asked students what kinds of incentives would encourage them to participate in NSSE

21 What contributed to your willingness to respond?



24 Closing the Loop – Incentives in 2011 Increased the number of incentives Increased the odds of winning Drawing only

25 Incentives Offered in 2011 Apple iPad 32 GB (value $5991 winner) Apple IPod Touch (value $1993 winners) Crimson Hooded sweatshirt with white IU Trident (value $4048 winners) Lunch for two at the Tudor Room (value $268 winners) Crimson T-shirt with white IU Trident (value $18145 winners) Mother Bears Pizza large, one-topping pizza (value $14250 winners) Crimson foldable 42 inch umbrella with white IU Trident (value $1350 winners) Cyclefit 3 session punch card (value $125 winners) Circuit Training session punch card (value $125 winners) TIS gift card (value $10250 winners) Scholars Inn Bakehouse gift card (value $10125 winners) SRSC T-shirt (value $1010 winners) Gift cardTarget, Amazon, or Starbucks (value $10100 winners) Bloomington Bagel Company 5 Wooden Nickels (value $5 total257 winners)


27 Follow-Up Survey 2011 Conducted after NSSE IUB field period ended Similar to 2010 Follow-up survey – Reasons for participation or non-participation – Desired incentives


29 Incentives in 2012 Two stage incentives – All completers Scoop of ice cream (coupon sent electronically) Free bagel coupon (picked-up at library) – All completers Entered into a weekly drawing to win one of 115 prizes Earlier students complete survey, more opportunities to win

30 Drawing Incentives in 2012 PrizesTotal NumberPrizesTotal Number iPad 32 GB1 $10 Cycle Fit 3 session punch cards5 $10 Target Gift Card6 Circuit Strength 3 session package5 Crimson Hooded sweatshirt w/ white IU Trident13$10 gift card at BBC2 Mother Bear's large one-topping pizza150$25 gift card TIS4 Lunch for Two at the Tudor Room12 Jackets from Underground Printing6 Crimson foldable umbrella w/White IU Trident16Underground T-shirts300 TIS $10 gift card47$50 Visa gift card1 Scholar's Inn Bakehouse ($10 gift card)55IU Flag (5x8)1 Crimson T-shirt w/ white IU Trident67IU Soccer Scarf1 Track & Field Baseball Cap1IU Athletic Team T-shirts4 SRSC T-shirts10 TOTAL PRIZES707

31 2012 Response Rate Changes – Response rate decreased to 30% – Bus with NSSE facts – List of past winners on website (views 1489 time) – List of prizes embedded in invitation and follow-up emails (viewed 1495 times) Speculation on why – Later start date – Competing surveys

32 Lessons Learned Sample members may not accurately predict the utility of incentives Managing a complex set of incentives requires resources Respondents may attribute more of their decision to participate to the incentives when asked later

33 Conclusions Incentives can improve response rates for Internet surveys The effect of incentives on data quality and differences across groups needs much more research More research is needed on why and how incentives affect the decision to participate

34 Contact Information John Kennedy Judy Ouimet

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