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Title The use of text messages in a web-survey. The case of a survey of Italian graduates
Workshop Workshop 2014
Year 2014

The use of Computer-Assisted Web Interviews (CAWI) has increased greatly over the last decade. This increase is partly driven by technological development and increased Internet penetration, and partly by falling response rates in the traditional modes of polling (Steeh, Buskirk, Callegaro 2007). Non-response error, however, remains one of the major challenges in Internet surveys; incentives and reminders can be adopted to contrast it (Couper 2008; Hansen, Pedersen 2012). In this paper we (i) discuss strategies to obtain respondents’ e-mail addresses, (ii) report findings from an experiment on the use of text messages (Bosnjak, Neubarth, Couper, Bandilla, Kaczmirek 2008), (iii) compare the data quality of survey answers provided by “early” and “late” respondents. In 2013 we carried out an on-line survey on the educational returns of Italian students who graduated in Social Work between 2006-2012. Contact information obtained from the local universities were quite heterogeneous; in most of the cases e-mail addresses and/or telephone numbers were available. Different strategies were adopted to obtain the missing e-mail address, including the setting up of a “registration” website and the use of text messages. Sample members were first contacted by e-mail on 5th of December 2013. Non-respondents were randomly allocated to three experimental groups: (i) contact by e-mail only (T1), (ii) contact by e-mail and text message (T2), (iii) no contact (C). A week later, T1 and T2 were contacted according to their experimental mode of contact. In line with the current literature on this topic (Kaplowitz, Hadlock, Levine 2004; Steeh, Buskirk, Callegaro 2007; Bosnjak, Neubarth, Couper, Bandilla, Kaczmirek 2008), preliminary analysis of the experimental data shows that reminders are effective in improving response rates. In particular, it shows that (i) those respondents who got a reminder (T1 and T2) are more likely to respond and (ii) there are no statistically significant differences in response rates according to the type of reminder used (i. e., response rates for T1 and T2 are not statistically different). This study contributes to the current knowledge in this field in a number of ways: it discusses innovative ways of contacting respondents using different methods, including text messages, and provides experimental evidence on the use of reminders in a web survey. The major limitation of the study lies in the nature of the population under study. We focus on a population of highly educated and young (especially female) individuals and the way respondents react to reminders may vary according to the population’s
characteristics (Couper 2008; Hansen, Pedersen 2012). Results of our study have implications in terms of data quality and cost savings. Identifying innovative ways to contact respondents for whom no e-mail address is available may reduce costs and shorten the timing of the data collection; designing effective ways to incentivize respondents’ participation is key to improve response rates and possibly enhance data quality. 


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