Participation incentives in a survey of international non-profit professionals

Alauna Safarpour, Sarah Sunn Bush, Jennifer Hadden
Sage Journals
Volume 9, Issue 3, July 2022
September 14, 2022


Elite surveys are increasingly common in political science, but how best to motivate participation in them remains poorly understood. This study compares the effect of three treatments designed to increase participation in an online survey of international non-profit professionals: a monetary reward, an altruistic appeal emphasizing the study’s benefits, and a promise to give the respondent access to the study’s results. Only the monetary incentive increased the survey response rate. It did not decrease response quality as measured in terms of straight-lining or skipped questions, although it may have produced a pool of respondents more likely to speed through the survey. The findings suggest that monetary incentives reduce total survey error even in the context of an elite survey, perhaps especially with elite populations frequently contacted by researchers. However, such incentives may not be without trade-offs in terms of how carefully respondents engage with the survey.

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