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Mode Matters: Evaluating Response Comparability in a Mixed-Mode Survey*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2015


This paper examines the effects of survey mode on patterns of survey response, paying special attention to the conditions under which mode effects are more or less consequential. We use the Youth Participatory Politics survey, a study administered either online or over the phone to 2920 young people. Our results provide consistent evidence of mode effects. The internet sample exhibits higher rates of item non-response and “no opinion” responses, and considerably lower levels of differentiation in the use of rating scales. These differences remain even after accounting for how respondents selected into the mode of survey administration. We demonstrate the substantive implications of mode effects in the context of items measuring political knowledge and racial attitudes. We conclude by discussing the implications of our results for comparing data obtained from surveys conducted with different modes, and for the design and analysis of multi-mode surveys.

Original Articles
© The European Political Science Association 2015 

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Benjamin T. Bowyer is a Senior Researcher in the Civic Engagement Research Group, School of Education, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Boulevard, MB-56, Oakland, CA 94613 ( Jon C. Rogowski is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, Washington University, Campus Box 1063, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130 ( The data used in this project were collected as part of the Youth Participatory Politics Study funded by the MacArthur Foundation under the supervision of Cathy Cohen and Joseph Kahne, principal investigators. The authors are grateful to Matthew DeBell, Chris Evans, Ellen Middaugh, and Catherine de Vries for thoughtful discussion and helpful comments. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit


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Mode Matters: Evaluating Response Comparability in a Mixed-Mode Survey*
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