Open Access

The Effect of Burdensome Survey Questions on Data Quality in an Omnibus Survey


In interviewer-administered omnibus surveys, burdensome questions asked early in a survey may result in lower quality responses to questions asked later in a survey. Two examples of these burdensome questions are social network questions, wherein respondents are asked about members of their personal network, and knowledge questions, wherein respondents are asked to provide a factually correct response to a question. In this study, we explore how the presence of potentially burdensome questions are associated with item nonresponse and acquiescence rates on subsequent survey questions, and whether this effect differs by respondent age and education. We use data from the 2010 General Social Survey (AAPOR RR5 ¼ 70.3%, AAPOR 2016), which experimentally varied the location of a social network module and the presence of a knowledge question module. Those who received knowledge questions had higher item nonresponse rates on subsequent questions than those who did not receive knowledge questions, but the quality of responses did not differ by the presence of social network questions. Further, respondents with different characteristics were not differentially burdened by the knowledge questions or the social network questions. We conclude that knowledge questions may be better asked near the end of omnibus surveys to preserve the response quality for subsequent questions.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Mathematics, Probability and Statistics