4 Surefire Ways to Increase ABS Response Rates Without Breaking the Bank

So you found the perfect sampling source with nearly 100% coverage and the ability to reach cell phone only homes with address based sample.  One can expect to get the completes needed but realistically what type of response rate will you achieve?  How can you boost it?

responsesDepending on the steps taken the response rate can vary greatly.  You may only realize 10-15% without a big name company endorsement to go with your survey and/or a pre-notification postcard, but such an endorsement can kill the budget before the study even begins!

Here are 4 surefire tips to increase response rates…

Tip #1 Phone number append and name append to the address using commercial databases to personalize the pieces and allow for reminder calls.  Even where the name is appended also include “or current resident” to reduce the return rate.

Tip #2 Add a creatively designed piece with the web link to drive them to participate online.  This allows the respondent to take the survey anytime and on a device of their choice.  Offering a multi-mode approach can increase participation and representation.

Tip #3 Repeat the Message and contact potential respondents multiple times via mail, phone, media or social networking sites which will increase awareness and help entice them to participate.  Messages are more effective when repeated!

Tip #4 Offer an Incentive to motivate your respondent.  Be sure the value represents a balance between effort and time spent on the survey within budget of course.

With some large, heavily endorsed studies we have seen up to 50% along with long field times, reminder calls, multiple post cards, and refusal conversions.  Use the tips that your study and budget will allow and you can experience a higher response rate too!

AAPOR ‘s Task Force on Address Based Sampling

In January of 2016, AAPOR ‘s Task Force on Address Based Sampling published it’s finding for the AAPOR Standard’s Committee.  MSG’s Trent Buskirk and David Malarek played a pivotal role in the formation of the ABS Standards.  Below is the Abstract for the report.  The full report can be found here:


Arguably, address lists updated via the United States Postal Service (USPS) Computerized Delivery Sequence (CDS) file are the best possible frames for today’s household surveys in the United States. National coverage estimates vary, but are very high overall and nearly 100% in many areas, and coverage continues to improve. In addition, many address lists are regularly updated with changes from the USPS CDS file, reducing the need for expensive field work by survey organizations. Historically, field-generated frames were the only option for in-person surveys, but the high cost was prohibitive for many important national surveys, not to mention other valuable research surveys at the state, region, or community level. For many years, telephone surveys have been the low-cost alternative to in-person surveys with field-generated frames. However, the nature of telephony has shifted dramatically toward cellular technology (Blumberg and Luke 2014; Keeter et al. 2007). With more households switching from landline to mobile telephones, the coverage of landline-based random digit dialing (RDD) frames has dwindled (Blumberg and Luke 2014). Furthermore, because of legislation regarding how survey researchers may dial cell phones, and because of generally lower response rates for cell phone numbers, the cost of telephone surveys that seek coverage of cell-only households is increasing (AAPOR Cell Phone Task Force 2010). Address-based sampling (ABS) offers attractive solutions to these coverage and cost problems in the United States (Link et al. 2008). The accessibility of address frames has reduced the cost of in-person surveys and brought about a resurgence of relatively inexpensive mail surveys. ABS is often used in multimode studies, where different modes may be used for contact versus response in data collection or to follow up with nonrespondents (Alexander and Wetrogan 2000; de Leeuw 2005). Alternatively, advance mailings can be used to direct selected households to web surveys, with the hope that doing so may dramatically reduce costs. Furthermore, the ability to append geocodes, phone numbers, demographics, and other data to the address frame, although imperfect, can provide deep stratification and aid in designing more cost-efficient studies. Society is changing through the way people communicate. Letters and telephone calls are largely being replaced by texts, tweets, e-mails, and other electronic communications, although mail is still used for some formal and official communications. Surveys that push selected individuals to respond to surveys electronically (e.g., via the web) take advantage of today’s 1-2 prevalent modes of communication. Without general frames of electronic addresses, mail addresses provide excellent coverage of households. At the same time, initial contact by mail ensures that virtually every selected household can be reached, regardless of electronic capabilities. Creative use of ABS provides many options for reaching busy households and gaining cooperation. The purpose of this report is to describe the nature of ABS and its uses for conducting surveys. Multiple specific goals of the report are presented in Section 1.3. The report discusses in detail technical aspects of constructing ABS frames and samples, and the technical aspects reveal both its strengths and limitations. These aspects are important for effective use of ABS in survey design and implementation, as described in the report.

Harvard Case Study

MSG continually tries to build bridges to the academic and social science world by using long established contacts coupled with the will, desire and need to use its assets to assist in projects that serve the public good.  Frequently these projects involve project consultation, pro bona delivery of sample frame design and data or, as was the case with an MSG/Harvard University project a combination of all three.

In the Fall of 2014, the student’s in Professor Chase Harrison’s GVT 1010 Undergraduate Survey Research class undertook a multi-mode project to gauge the urban/suburban attitudes of residents in the Boston area.  MSG supplied not only the ABS sample but also allowed the students to consult with MSG personnel.  The result was a high response rate and statistically sound survey finding.  MSG would like to let all of academia know that we are available to work on select projects and can offer advice, suggestions and data if the project meets qualifications.

As Professor Harrison commented “MSG’s willingness to donate the sample for this project is just incredible.  I always encourage my students to use the best tools available, although I don’t always have the resources to help them use those tools, especially for things like general-population samples.  Thanks to MSG, this group was able to use a sample that otherwise would have been beyond their reach, and were able to experience what it is like to work on real-time survey with professional tools.”

Click Here for the full case study.