Are Your Survey Results Representative or are You Only Hearing From the Usual Suspects?

Are Your Survey Results Representative or are You Only Hearing From the Usual Suspects?

Are your results representative of your total population? If you have a low response rate you may have to take special measures to reach the non-responders.

When we conduct a survey we have the implicit hope that our sample is representative of the population that we are interested in e.g. our members, stakeholders etc.  That’s why we try to get the best response rate that we can. The better the response rate the more confident we are that our results will reflect reality.

However, we often settle for a less than stellar response rate. Often we only hear from the “usual suspects”.  These are the respondents who think we’re doing a spectacular job and want us to know about it or those who have a “bone to pick” and want to bring it to our attention. We miss out on all of those other opinions that may be invaluable.

Getting at the “silent majority” can be tricky. It may require a very compelling incentive to build our response. Another alternative is to sample the non-responders. This might include using another technique to reach these potential respondents e.g. telephone. Typically we ask these individuals a few key demographic and attitudinal questions and compare their responses to our original sample. If we see that their responses are similar then we can be confident that our original sample is representative. If not, we need to make a special effort to solicit the opinions of those stakeholders who fall outside the bounds of our “usual suspects”.

 

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