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Research Note: Reducing the Threat of Sensitive Questions in Online Surveys?

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Couper, Mick P.

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Abstract We explore the effect of offering an open-ended comment field in a Web survey to reduce the threat of sensitive questions. Two experiments were field in a probability-based Web panel in the Netherlands. For a set of 10 items on attitudes to immigrants, a random half were offered the opportunity to explain or clarify their responses, with the hypothesis being that doing so would reduce the need to choose socially desirable answers, resulting in higher levels of prejudice. Across two experiments, we find significant effects contrary to our hypothesis – the opportunity to comment decreased the level of prejudice reported, and longer comments were associated with more tolerant attitudes among those who were offered the comment field.
Keywords survey research; response behavior; online survey; questionnaire; Netherlands; panel; data collection method; survey; measurement; attitude
Classification Methods and Techniques of Data Collection and Data Analysis, Statistical Methods, Computer Methods
Document language English
Publication Year 2013
Page/Pages 9 p.
Journal Survey Methods: Insights from the Field (2013)
ISSN 2296-4754
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works