The experiences of populations who are vulnerable, at-risk, or who have special needs are often of special interest to policymakers and researchers. This session discussed guidelines and challenges inherent in using survey research to collect information from vulnerable or at-risk populations.

The breakout session discussion group began by asking what a “Special Population” is. Some of the suggestions made were:

  • children
  • wealthy respondents
  • any respondents other than a general population study
  • respondents with language barriers
  • people with health issues
  • homeless
  • drug use
  • mental impairment
  • any population that takes special effort

Challenges to the research profession

The attendees also identified and discussed various challenges or barriers that exist with special populations

  • increase time to complete study
  • higher costs
  • having to use mix/modes
  • legal barriers
  • red tape
  • getting parental consent for children (and having a record of it)
  • having to have specially training interviewers at the ready all the time (the issue of targeting special populations vs. including them in the sample)


During the breakout sessions, the attendees offered a variety of tools/solutions to the issue of Special Populations:

  • translation services
  • special training of interviewers

PDF of the presentation slide deck.