Research on research shows that while refusals to cooperate in survey research are on the rise, nevertheless respondents overwhelmingly believe that research surveys serve a very useful purpose and that participating in surveys is in their own best interest. This surprising dichotomy was revealed in a recently completed telephone survey of over 1,900 adults nationwide. The survey was designed and conducted by the Council for Marketing and Opinion Research (CMOR), an association of research providers and users committed to protecting the integrity of the research process. CMOR’s President, Diane Bowers stated that the purpose of the survey was to help the marketing and opinion research industry better understand and address the problem of declining respondent participation in surveys.

The study clearly shows that respondents think surveys provide an opportunity for feedback on products and services, but there are obstacles to participation that include the timing of the survey call, the subject matter, and the length of the interview itself. Harry O’Neill, CMOR’s Respondent Cooperation Consultant, reports that refusal rates increased from 53% in the 1992 Walker Industry Image Survey to 58% in the 1995 CMOR study.  “While we are encouraged by respondents’ perception and understanding of the value of surveys, we know we must focus on ways to improve respondent cooperation in telephone surveys,” O’Neill said.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the public’s perceptions of the research process, to measure the effects of alternative methods of improving respondent cooperation, and, ultimately, to develop industry guidelines for improving interviewer and data collection quality. Al Baldinger (The NPD Group, Inc.), who chaired the committee that developed the study, explains that eleven companies volunteered their time and staff to conduct the interviews and analyze the results. “We are proud of the tremendous pro bono support we’ve received for this study, which otherwise would have cost CMOR over $100,000 to conduct.”