Why People Do Surveys

Why People Do Surveys

The people who answer our surveys are generous with their time, and often are very patient with our obscure and difficult to answer questions. The question is why? Why are they giving us their time and energy when there are so many competing demands for people’s time? Do they do it for the money?

In a word, no. Professor Anja Göritz, a psychologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany, conducted a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of incentives in her paper “Incentives in Web Studies: Methodological Issues and a Review,” which is where the below graph is adapted from.

Why People Do Surveys Her analysis revealed that “material incentives increase response and decrease drop-out,” but “the combined effect of incentives on response and retention is still small.”

She also reminded readers that “using material incentives is only one option to influence data quality and quantity. We should not forget about other possibly response-enhancing techniques such as personalization, prenotification, deadlines, reminders, offering result summaries and altruistic appeal.”

Our own research bears this out. A few years back we cut in half the honorarium we pay for doing our omnibus surveys. The response rate did not change.

It’s not about the money.

What they like about doing research

We recently surveyed 1,500 Canadians about why they do surveys. What it revealed is that people want to make their voice heard, and contribute to society. They also like learning about new things through surveys. Roughly 9 in 10 agreed with these statements:

“I feel like my opinion makes a difference.”

“I feel like I am being a trusted advisor when I provide feedback to a company on their products.”

“I feel like I am doing my part as a good consumer and citizen when I provide feedback” and “Doing surveys is one way I can contribute to society.”

“I do surveys because I want organizations to know where I stand on issues.”

“I enjoy learning about new things and products when I do surveys.”

And yes, 82% also agreed: “I like to do surveys because I get paid.” But a similar number also agreed: “The incentive I get for doing a survey is nice, but it is not the main reason I will answer a survey.”

To make it more real, let’s hear directly from people about what they like about doing surveys. We asked some people what they would tell their friends they liked about doing surveys.

Give the people what they want

As we design surveys and manage our communities, let’s stop declining response rates by giving feedback that lets people know that their contribution is important. There is real value to our business in telling them how they are making a difference. Sharing information on decisions made, products changed, and insights generated, can make people feel their effort is worthwhile. It is also beneficial to share information on new ideas or concepts, even if it is not the focus of our research. Learning about something new is one of the things people enjoy.

We’ve heard the voice of the people. We know what they like. Let’s heed their voice and give them the survey experience they deserve. Let’s treat them like people.

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