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The Advent of Internet Surveys for Political Research: A Comparison of Telephone and Internet Samples

  • Robert P. Berrens (a1), Alok K. Bohara (a1), Hank Jenkins-Smith (a2), Carol Silva (a2) and David L. Weimer (a3)...


The Internet offers a number of advantages as a survey mode: low marginal cost per completed response, capabilities for providing respondents with large quantities of information, speed, and elimination of interviewer bias. Those seeking these advantages confront the problem of representativeness both in terms of coverage of the population and capabilities for drawing random samples. Two major strategies have been pursued commercially to develop the Internet as a survey mode. One strategy, used by Harris Interactive, involves assembling a large panel of willing respondents who can be sampled. Another strategy, used by Knowledge Networks, involves using random digit dialing (RDD) telephone methods to recruit households to a panel of Web-TV enabled respondents. Do these panels adequately deal with the problem of representativeness to be useful in political science research? The authors address this question with results from parallel surveys on global climate change and the Kyoto Protocol administered by telephone to a national probability sample and by Internet to samples of the Harris Interactive and Knowledge Networks panels. Knowledge and opinion questions generally show statistically significant but substantively modest difference across the modes. With inclusion of standard demographic controls, typical relational models of interest to political scientists produce similar estimates of parameters across modes. It thus appears that, with appropriate weighting, samples from these panels are sufficiently representative of the U.S. population to be reasonable alternatives in many applications to samples gathered through RDD telephone surveys.



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