Understanding how respondents think and refer to the survey research industry is a key in formulating strategies for improving respondent cooperation.  Respondents repeatedly confuse telemarketing and survey research activities, and considered them often to be the same since both seem to "want a piece of your time, your creativity", and "get in your face - they want to invade your privacy and get something from you" as stated in respondent focus groups conducted.    These challenges are what fueled a blockbuster year of accomplishments for CMOR’s Respondent Cooperation initiatives.

CMOR staff, armed with a host of incredibly dedicated volunteers, accomplished several major projects including; 1) creating an Industry Identifier, 2) completing another wave of the Respondent Cooperation & Industry Image, and 3) successfully conducting another Respondent Cooperation workshop.  There were numerous other on-going efforts such as the Cooperation Tracking Study, and various task forces tackling issues of Interviewer Motivation and Satisfaction, Interviewer Training, and Model Survey Introductions and Scripts.

These Respondent Cooperation efforts provided CMOR members and the industry insights and tools for:

  • understanding respondent behavior and attitudes
  • monitoring survey rates and cooperation drivers
  • providing guidelines and best practices, organizing a forum to interact with various segments of the industry for developing solutions
  • creating an Industry Identifier that will be used with respondent communications to help legitimize survey research and differentiate it from telemarketing.

Key Highlights from 2003 Key Initiatives

1) Industry Identifier

The need for the industry to have an identifiable logo and slogan has been the desire of researchers for several years, and had been previously undertaken by various groups without completion.  Two years of hard work under the direction of CMOR, financial support by MRA, a dedicated Grassroots committee, scores of volunteers, and contract with an advertising firm, an Industry Identifier was born. 

2) Respondent Cooperation & Industry Image Study – Some Conclusions & Findings

Privacy continues to be a problem for the industry with personal privacy particularly high among individuals who were more likely to feel somewhat disenfranchised.  However, fewer Internet respondents felt that survey research was an invasion of privacy.

Answering Machines and Special Services
Since privacy is of such concern among the general public, trend data points to continuous growth in ownership of answering machines.  Consumers with unlisted telephone numbers were especially drawn to special telephone services, and Internet respondents take even extra precautions against unwanted phone calls by using answering machines and special devices such as Caller ID.

Past Survey Participation and Refusals
Overall, nearly half of CMOR survey participants refused participation in a survey at some time in the past year.  Trends in frequency of survey participation continue to climb which combined with the high refusal rates may indicate that the same households are participating in survey research. 

The primary reason for refusing to participate remains timing ( “did not have time” and/or were “called at an inopportune time”).  While many self-reported refusers were not using devices/services to screen their calls, their survey methodology preferences indicate a strong bias against telephone surveys and toward Internet surveys. 

Survey Methodology

Telephone surveys at home were the most prevalent methodology.  Mail survey frequency was also high, but Internet survey frequency surpassed various types of In-person surveys and Group discussions.

Preference for Internet surveys continues to increase.  In 2003, Internet survey preference (18%) increased 44% from 1999 (10%).  Although, mail surveys remain the preferred methodology this is most likely due to their convenience.  Convenience was also a key factor in the rise in popularity of Internet Surveys, this combined with the general increase in Internet popularity and accessibility.

Mail and Internet survey respondents report that it took them an average of 16 minutes to complete their questionnaire, while phone and in-person, interviews took 13 minutes.  Twenty five percent reported mail and Internet surveys taking over 20 minutes, compared with only 15% for interview administered.  Interestingly, although the issue of survey length has repeatedly arisen throughout the study, respondents selected mail as their preferred methodology, and preference for Internet surveys is rising quickly.  This indicates that survey length is important, but of even greater importance to respondents is convenience (i.e. mail and Internet surveys offer greater convenience).  Based on the level of acceptance of Internet interviewing, it is likely that preference for this method will continue to rise, perhaps eventually taking over the role of the phone survey.

Future willingness to participate

CMOR respondents with an average phone/in-person interview of 12 minutes were more willing to participate in future surveys, compared to those who reported that they were not willing to participate with an average phone /in-person interview of 15 minutes.  However, mail and Internet length did not have an impact on future willingness to participate.

3) Respondent Cooperation Workshops

This year’s meeting in Orlando, Florida consisted of invited speaker presentations on special topics and reports from task force groups formed during the first workshops held in New York City and Chicago in 2002.  The workshop was an excellent place to discuss research findings and to share insights into interviewer training that others have found to be successful, as well as other research conducted and its effects on respondent cooperation.  A total of 120 attendees from the public and private sectors, academia, and research support services convened for two full days to discuss and share problems and solutions, and develop valuable networks.

Attendees heard from prominent researchers sharing how t hey identified four refusal “themes” and classified 18 – 34 year olds into categories based on each, along with suggested tailored refusal avoidance tactics for each theme.  Another fascinating topic was discussed about techniques for improving cooperation in a polling environment which involves recalling non-working telephone numbers.  These were but a few of the topics presented and discussed among a very enthusiastic group ready to help the survey research industry.

This same enthusiasm and momentum in wanting to discover creative solutions is the primary reason why CMOR will again be hosting another two-day workshop March 2 – 3, 2004 in Las Vegas.    The focus will be on exploring legislation and technology, along with data collection and research methods to combat declining respondent cooperation.  The program has been planned and is posted on the CMOR website, www.cmor.org.   Many of the CMOR task forces are outgrowths of brainstorming and roundtable discussions from its workshops.  These workshops have been a wonderful venue in bringing together researchers from all segments of the survey research industry providing a valuable springboard for new projects. 

Though CMOR may be a small organization, the accomplishments have not been small in the year 2003.  It has provided tangible resources for its members and the industry.  CMOR, with the support of its partners, ARF and MRA, will continue to provide valuable information and tools to function with success in these challenging times.