May 24, 2012

Pollsters Face Challenges in Getting Survey Respondents

9%

The percentage of households in a polling sample that are successfully interviewed — the response rate — has fallen dramatically: from 36% in 1997 to 9% today.

For decades survey research has provided trusted data about political attitudes and voting behavior, the economy, health, education, demography and many other topics. But political and media surveys are facing significant challenges as a consequence of societal and technological changes.

It has become increasingly difficult to contact potential respondents and to persuade them to participate. The percentage of households in a sample that are successfully interviewed — the response rate — has fallen dramatically. At Pew Research, the response rate of a typical telephone survey was 36% in 1997 and is just 9% today.

These challenges have led many to question whether surveys are still providing accurate and unbiased information. But a new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that, despite declining response rates, telephone surveys that include landlines and cell phones and are weighted to match the demographic composition of the population continue to provide accurate data on most political, social and economic measures. This comports with the consistent record of accuracy achieved by major polls when it comes to estimating election outcomes, among other things. Read More