Using motivational statements in web-instrument design to reduce item-missing rates in a mixed-mode context

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Public Opinion Quarterly


Tarek Al Baghal and Peter Lynn

Publication date


Web questionnaires, including those used in mixed-mode surveys, generally produce higher levels of item nonresponse than interviewer administered questionnaires. Item nonresponse is generally seen as having a detrimental impact on data quality. The current study examines using motivational statements to reduce item nonresponse in a web survey component of a mixed-mode design. The effects of alternative implementations are compared, both for web surveys and for mixed-mode surveys. In addition, the mixed-mode results are compared to a face-to-face survey. The current study adds to the literature on the use of motivational statements by using a unique large-scale randomized experiment to examine the impact of the timing of the motivational statement, and to compare with the same survey in an interviewer-administered context. Findings show that a motivational statement following immediately after an item is left unanswered greatly outperforms either the control or a motivational statement at a later point in the survey. Using this immediate reactive prompt reduces item nonresponse to levels equivalent to a face-to-face version. Conversely, the control (no statement) and later placed motivational statement
lead to significantly greater item nonresponse. Point estimates for the tested variables are not affected by the additional responses obtained. The results suggest practical design implications to reduce item nonresponse when using a web design, specifically the use of a reactive motivational prompt in a planned way.
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Volume and page numbers

79, 568-579






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  1. Using motivational statements in web instrument design to reduce item missing rates in a mixed-mode context