Item Location, the Interviewer–respondent Interaction, and Responses to Battery Questions in Telephone Surveys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Survey researchers often ask a series of attitudinal questions with a common question stem and response options, known as battery questions. Interviewers have substantial latitude in deciding how to administer these items, including whether to reread the common question stem on items after the first one or to probe respondents’ answers. Despite the ubiquity of use of these items, there is virtually no research on whether respondent and interviewer behaviors on battery questions differ over items in a battery or whether interview behaviors are associated with answers to these questions. This article uses a nationally representative telephone survey with audio-recorded interviews and randomized placement of items within four different batteries to examine interviewer and respondent behaviors and respondent answers in battery questions. Using cross-classified random-effects models, the authors find strong evidence that there is more interviewer–respondent interaction on items asked earlier in the battery. In addition, interviewer and respondent behaviors are associated with both substantive and nonsubstantive answers provided to battery items, especially if the interviewer decided to reread or probe with the response options. These results suggest that survey designers should follow recommendations to randomize battery items and consider the importance of standardization of question administration when designing battery questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSociological Methodology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 1 2018

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telephone
interaction
interview
evidence

Keywords

  • battery items
  • interviewer–respondent interaction
  • survey research
  • telephone surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

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title = "Item Location, the Interviewer–respondent Interaction, and Responses to Battery Questions in Telephone Surveys",
abstract = "Survey researchers often ask a series of attitudinal questions with a common question stem and response options, known as battery questions. Interviewers have substantial latitude in deciding how to administer these items, including whether to reread the common question stem on items after the first one or to probe respondents’ answers. Despite the ubiquity of use of these items, there is virtually no research on whether respondent and interviewer behaviors on battery questions differ over items in a battery or whether interview behaviors are associated with answers to these questions. This article uses a nationally representative telephone survey with audio-recorded interviews and randomized placement of items within four different batteries to examine interviewer and respondent behaviors and respondent answers in battery questions. Using cross-classified random-effects models, the authors find strong evidence that there is more interviewer–respondent interaction on items asked earlier in the battery. In addition, interviewer and respondent behaviors are associated with both substantive and nonsubstantive answers provided to battery items, especially if the interviewer decided to reread or probe with the response options. These results suggest that survey designers should follow recommendations to randomize battery items and consider the importance of standardization of question administration when designing battery questions.",
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