Interactions Between Sample Person and Interviewer
Studies on the factors influencing participation have begun looking more closely at the interaction between the interviewer and the sample person, which has three main phases. The first phase is the interaction during the survey introduction, which takes place for less than a minute on the phone (Oksenberg et al., 1986) and up to five minutes in the case of a face-to-face interview (Groves and Couper, 1994). The second phase is the persuasion attempt by the interviewer if he or she faces reluctance from the householder to participate in a survey. If the householder agrees to participate in the survey, then the third phase of interaction takes place, in which the interviewer elicits responses to survey questions. Research investigating the interaction of the interviewer and householders has looked at all three phases; only the first two phases are relevant for survey nonresponse decisions.
The theory proposed by Groves and Couper (1998) provided a description of two techniques that should be employed by interviewers during the three phases: tailoring and maintaining interaction. Tailoring is the technique employed by expert interviewers who customize their interactions with sample persons based on a variety of cues. Maintaining interaction is a technique in which interviewers continue engaging respondents in conversation to obtain more information for tailoring and to reduce the likelihood that sample members will refuse to participate in a given turn of talk. The authors stressed the fact that interaction must be maintained for tailoring to occur.
Groves and McGonagle (2001) developed nonresponse aversion training based on these two concepts. They broke the task of the interviewer into four steps: (1) identifying the concern, (2) classifying it, (3) providing an appropriate response, and (4) performing those tasks as quickly as possible. The training improved the response rates of interviewers, especially for those who had lower response rates before the training. Relatedly, Dijkstra and Smit (2002) recorded and analyzed spontaneously occurring persuasion techniques and found that such techniques increased participation.
Survey introductions can vary in content (sponsor’s name, confidentiality concerns), amount of information (level of detail about topic), and scriptedness. O’Neil et al. (1979) experimentally varied what the interviewer said after a short introduction and found marginal differences in response rates between groups who were administered different sets of introductions. In a telephone survey, Singer et al. (1983) varied the information provided to sampled households on survey content and on the purpose