without completely forestalling future attempts. When a variety of survey materials are available for providing to respondents, training can be effective in determining when different pieces of information might be most appropriate.

Training can also be seen as ongoing throughout the field period. As interviewers learn more about the respondent population, they can interact with more senior staff for coaching. To the extent that information is available about actual performance—through recordings, direct observation, or notes recorded by interviewers as part of their record keeping—such feedback can be more focused.

Recommendation 4-4: Research is needed on the structure and content of interviewer training as well as on the value of continued coaching of interviewers. Where possible, experiments should be done to identify the most effective techniques.

Concluding Remarks on the Role of Interviewers

In summary, interviewers play a valuable role in obtaining survey responses. The survey participation literature summarized above has scrutinized various aspects of that role. But it is important to acknowledge that an interviewer’s actions are very much dependent on sampling frame, survey design, survey mode, and interviewer training. Future research studies investigating an interviewer’s role in survey participation should provide insights into how to integrate interviewers’ efforts with design features. Interviewers can be provided material that will contain information on respondents and records of prior contacts. Interviewer training can explain the importance of participation, how to assure the respondents of confidentiality, how to approach previous refusals, how to diagnose reluctance and respond appropriately, how to make a graceful exit, and various strategies to handle high-priority but low-propensity cases. As for respondents, they can be persuaded through advance letters, survey materials (explaining reasons for conducting the survey or addressing respondents’ fears or reservations directly), and (monetary) incentives. Further empirical research into survey participation requires collection of more information on interviewers and behavior of respondents.


Singer (2011) spoke to the panel on the use of monetary incentives to counter the trend toward increasing nonresponse in national household surveys. She noted that monetary incentives, especially prepaid incentives, are being employed more often (Singer and Ye, 2013). Her talk summarized

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