ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

Effects on panel mortality in telephone surveys

Christine E. Meltzer, Ilka Lolies, Gregor Daschmann

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 5 - Law Building, Room 020
Date: 2012-07-12 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-12


There are several impact factors influencing respondent’s willingness to participate in a telephone survey. Many of them beyond the researcher’s control, e.g. respondent’s interest in the survey topic or mistrust. Even more of those impediments are to face in a panel survey. Researchers can apply various strategies to decrease panel mortality. One of them is to have a participant interviewed by the same person in all panel waves. Previous contributions assumed that response rates can be improved by establishing a personal relation between the interviewer and the respondent (Donsbach & Brosius, 1991; Behr, Bellgardt, & Rendtel, 2005; Laurie, Smith, & Scott, 1999; Porst & Schneid, 1989). Thus, we aim to analyze if this tactic has a positive influence on response rates in a telephone survey and if it can help to reduce the impact of factors rather inherent to the interviewees as the interest in the survey topic or prior knowledge.
A four wave panel survey starting in December 2011 with 1.000 participants representative for the city of Mainz, Germany, is conducted with an experimental design. The four waves are distributed over 14 month (last wave in February 2012), with a gap of about five month between the different interviews. About one third of the participants were assigned to the same interviewer; the remaining part is interviewed by different ones. The introduction and closing text varied: Interviewers assigned to the same participant reminded them of their personal relationship while those with different respondents remained more impersonal. The survey topic was personal interest in science as well as public opinion about Mainz holding the title “city of the science 2011”.
As the third and fourth interview are not yet completed, this abstract can only deal with the comparison of waves 1 and 2. Results show no significant influence for assignment of the same interviewer for participation in the second panel wave. There are, however, significant influences of participant’s interest in science and prior knowledge about the survey topic. Thus, it seems that the assignment of the same interviewer does not reduce the impact of factors inherent to the respondents. Up to the conference in July 2012, the results of all four waves of the panel survey will be available. They will be presented and methodological as well as strategic consequences will be discussed.


Behr, A., Bellgardt, E., & Rendtel, U. (2005). Extent and Determinants of Panel Attrition in the European Community Household Panel. European Sociological Review, 21(5), 489–512. doi:10.1093/esr/jci037
Donsbach, W., & Brosius, H.-B. (1991). Panel surveys be telephone: How to improve response rates and sample quality. Marketing and Research Today, 19, 143–150.
Laurie, H., Smith, R., & Scott, L. (1999). Strategies for Reducing Nonresponse in a Longitudinal Panel Survey. Journal of Official Statistics, 15, 269–282.
Porst, R., & Schneid, M. (1989). Ausfälle bei der Panelbefragung. Demographische Merkmale von Befragten, Gemeindetyp und Wechsel des Interviewers als Determinanten von Verweigerungen und Nichterreichbarkeit. [Attrition in the Panel Survey. Demographic Characteristics of Respondents, Type of Community and Change of the Interviewer as Determinants of Refusal and Unavailability.]. Planung & Analyse, 1, 8–13.