An experimental comparison of web-push vs. paper-only survey procedures for conducting an in-depth health survey of military spouses.
BACKGROUND: Previous research has found that a "web-push" approach to data collection, which involves contacting people by mail to request an Internet survey response while withholding a paper response option until later in the contact process, consistently achieves lower response rates than a "paper-only" approach, whereby all respondents are contacted and requested to respond by mail. METHOD: An experiment was designed, as part of the Millennium Cohort Family Study, to compare response rates, sample representativeness, and cost between a web-push and a paper-only approach; each approach comprised 3 stages of mail contacts. The invited sample (n = 4,935) consisted of spouses married to U.S. Service members, who had been serving in the military between 2 and 5 years as of October, 2011. RESULTS: The web-push methodology produced a significantly higher response rate, 32.8% compared to 27.8%. Each of the 3 stages of postal contact significantly contributed to response for both treatments with 87.1% of the web-push responses received over the Internet. The per-respondent cost of the paper-only treatment was almost 40% higher than the web-push treatment group. Analyses revealed no meaningfully significant differences between treatment groups in representation. CONCLUSION: These results provide evidence that a web-push methodology is more effective and less expensive than a paper-only approach among young military spouses, perhaps due to their heavy reliance on the internet, and we suggest that this approach may be more effective with the general population as they become more uniformly internet savvy.
McMaster, HS; LeardMann, CA; Speigle, S; Dillman, DA; Millennium Cohort Family Study Team,
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