ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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The Impact of Academic Sponsorship on Online Survey Dropout Rates

Peter Allen, Lynne Roberts

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 11 - Law Building, Room 107
Date: 2012-07-12 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-18


This paper reports two studies investigating the impact of online survey sponsorship on dropout rates. In Study 1, 498 participants were randomised to one of four 78-item online surveys. All four surveys were identical in content, but differed in presentation format. The first pair of surveys were hosted on our faculty web-server using LimeSurvey, and preceded by an information page on our school website. Our university logo was featured prominently on every page of these surveys, representing a “high” level of university sponsorship. The remaining pair were entirely hosted on, and made minimal reference to our university (i.e., they represented a “low” level of university sponsorship). One version of each pair “forced” participants to answer every question on each page before continuing, whereas the other did not (i.e., all questions were “optional”). Overall, 13.9% of participants commenced, but did not complete the surveys. The proportion of participants completing the high sponsorship surveys did not differ from the proportion completing the low sponsorship surveys. Of those who completed the optional format surveys, members of the low sponsorship condition answered significantly more items than high sponsorship condition members. There was no such difference between members of the high and low conditions who did not complete the optional format surveys. However, LimeSurvey and SurveyMonkey differ in terms of basic page formatting, load speeds and several other factors, which could be responsible for these findings. These confounds were addressed in Study 2, in which 159 participants were randomised to one of two 65-item online surveys. Both were identical in content, utilised an optional response format, and were hosted on The first survey represented a high level of university sponsorship, was preceded by an information page on our school website, and had the university name and logo featured prominently on every page, and in the survey URL. The second survey did not possess these characteristics, and represented a low level of university sponsorship. Overall, 23.9% of participants commenced, but did not complete the surveys. The proportion of participants that completed the high sponsorship survey did not differ to the proportion that completed the low sponsorship survey. Furthermore, the numbers of items answered by participants who completed the two surveys were equivalent. Overall, although it is disappointing that dropout rates cannot be reduced simply by enhancing academic survey sponsor visibility, researchers without ready access to university web-servers or logos will appreciate these findings.