4159.0.55.002 - General Social Survey: User Guide, Australia, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/12/2011   
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Contents >> Survey methodology >> Measures to Maximise Response Rates


Ideally, interviews would be conducted with all people selected in the sample. However, in practice, some level of non-response is inevitable. Non-response is classified where people refuse to cooperate, cannot be contacted or are contacted but cannot be interviewed. It is important that response be maximised in order to reduce sampling variability and minimise bias. Sampling variability is increased when the sample size decreases. Consequently, bias can arise if the people who fail to respond to the survey have different characteristics from those who did respond.

The ABS sought the willing cooperation of selected households. Measures taken to encourage respondent cooperation and maximise response included:

  • information provided to selected households in the 2010 GSS, initially by letter and a brochure, explaining that their dwelling had been selected for the survey, the purposes of the survey, its official nature and the confidentiality of the information collected. The letters gave advance notice that an ABS interviewer would call, and provided an ABS contact number for more information if required.
  • stressing the importance of participation in the survey by selected households, by explaining that each household selected represented a number of others similar in size, composition, location, occupation, lifestyle and health. Further explanation that the cooperation of those selected was important to ensure all households/persons were properly represented in the survey and properly reflected in survey results.
  • stressing the importance of the survey itself, which measures the well-being of Australians and therefore helps plan and provide support to those groups in need.
  • stressing the confidentiality of all information collected. The confidentiality of data is guaranteed by the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under provisions of this Act the ABS is prevented from releasing any identifiable information about individuals or households to any person, organisation or government authority.

Through call-backs and follow-up at selected dwellings, every effort was made to contact the occupants of each selected dwelling and to conduct the survey in those dwellings. Interviewers made several call-backs before a dwelling was classified as ‘non-contact’. Call-backs occurred at different times during the day to increase the chance of contact. If any person who was selected to be included in the survey was absent from the dwelling when the Interviewer called, arrangements were made to return and interview at a later date. Interviewers made return visits as necessary in order to complete the questionnaire for the selected person in scope of the survey. In some cases, the selected adult within a dwelling could not be contacted or interviewed, and these were classified as non-contacts.

Respondents who refused to participate were usually followed-up by letter, as well as a subsequent visit by a supervisor. Completed questionnaires were obtained where possible. There were instances in which respondents were willing to answer some, but not all, of the questions asked, or didn't know an answer to a particular question. The survey instrument was programmed to accept 'don't know' responses as well as refusals on sensitive topics, such as income. Respondents who refused or did not know an answer to only these sections of the questionnaire were classified as 'adequate complete'.

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