The Downward Trend of Survey Response Rates: Implications and Considerations for Evaluators

Rapidly declining response rates and the associated threat of nonresponse bias call into question the validity of data obtained through telephone surveys, a tool often used in evaluation. This article explores changes in nonresponse bias over time by examining three data points (1991, 1996, and 2002) from an annual household telephone survey conducted by the University of Alberta's Population Research Lab. Results demonstrate a substantial decline in response rates accompanied by an increasing level of bias in variables related to respondent education.