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Review article

Effect of Questionnaire Length on Survey Response Rate


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It is generally assumed that questionnaire length has a
significant effect on survey response rate. However, the
empirical findings are equivocal. One of the reasons is that
various authors use different operational definitions of
questionnaire length. Studies that define length as the
number of questions and/or pages usually show a negative
relationship between questionnaire length and response
rates. When questionnaire length is defined by its physical
format, the same number of questions printed on smaller-
-sized paper, but also on a larger number of pages would
yield bigger response rates. The duration of interview in
minutes can be positively related to its relevance for
respondents, which in turn has a positive effect on the
response rate. Many authors claim that response rates are
influenced by subjective rather than objective indices of
questionnaire length. Perception of length is often moderated
by various other characteristics of the survey situation, such
as respondents' interest in the topic of the survey and use of
financial or other incentives. A complete theory of survey
behavior is needed in order to better understand and
generalize the empirical findings.


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