Art or Science? The Perils and Possibilities of Survey Sampling in the Evolving Online World

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In this paper we review the results of a series of studies comparing the findings from different sample sources, including publishers, individual panels, and “river” sample, in the US and Canada.

We compare across sources and over time. We draw on large tracking studies, as well as studies conducted specifically to focus on particular sample sources. In the face of evidence of both reliability and unreliability, bias and accuracy, we consider the role sample source has on determining whether survey research can or should be considered a science.

We conclude by asking all of us in the industry to question how we can change our practices to treat respondents more like people, and less like the commodity we commonly call “sample”.