Pew Research Center just published the results of a comprehensive study they conducted on comparing two modes of market research – phone interviews vs. self-administered online surveys. The results are based on 3,003 respondents who were randomly assigned to either the phone or Web mode and each group answered a set of 60 common questions. While many of the differences discovered between modes are modest, some are sizeable.
Many of the differences are consistent with the theory that respondents are more likely to give answers that paint themselves or their communities in a positive light, or less likely to portray themselves negatively, when they are interacting with an interviewer. In the interest of maintaining rapport with an interviewer, respondents may self-censor or moderate their views in ways that they would not online.
Other research examining questions for which the true value is known have found that self-administered surveys generally elicit more accurate information than interviewer-administered surveys. This doesn’t mean phone interviews shouldn’t be used, there are many reasons to use them, but the Pew study is somewhat reassuring that accurate insight can be generating using online surveys. There’s a lot more depth to this Pew study on modes of surveys, so check it out, or for more information on our POV, contact us and we’ll be glad to discuss!