Adapting to Changes Public Opinion Research
Utilizing Mixed Mode Surveys
By: Dave Fako
President and Senior Strategist
Fako Research & Strategies, Inc.
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Recently, we highlighted important information on the changes occurring in public opinion research and shared
some information and announcements from Pew about changes in their methods that we felt were important.
Below are links to those articles from / about Pew and the status of polling.
As we said in our previous post, "this emphasizes the need for consumers of public opinion research to understand the best options and practices. It also highlights the professional obligation for pollsters to honestly assess the options for a client and offer alternatives where necessary, in particular the use of online or mix mode (online + phone) options."
Which brings us to our topic. As technology / communication and personal habits of consumers change, so have the data collection methods in public opinion research.
A commonly used data collection adaptation is the use of mixed mode (sometime called multi-mode) surveys. Mixed mode utilizes a combination of interviews conducted via traditional phone / cell phone and online. Typically this is done within traditional opinion research standards via phone / cell phones while an identical survey with appropriate method adaptations is also used to collect simultaneously online.
The reasons for mixed mode vary. Mixed mode is most often a reliable option in:
1.) cases where there is limited phone records available and a practical ability to secure online interviews,
2.) a unique target that is challenging to secure interviews via phone exclusively, or,
3.) where there is interest in similar information from related targets group and but one or more of the groups are challenging to reach via phone or a very efficient and practical ability to secure online interviews exists.
The online segment of the survey is usually conducted via one of the following methods:
- An online panel that meets the target criteria and is invited to participate in the survey,
- An existing quality and updated e-mail list of the target group that is invited to participate in the survey, or,
- An efficient, effective and reliable mechanism to publicly promote participation within the target group.
The benefits of mixed mode is that it addresses some of the challenges in today's research environment with reaching respondents via phone / cell phone, particularly with unique or challenging targets. It also offers opportunities to supplement phone surveys where there is limited phone sample available within the target or in cases where it creates opportunities for expanded participation due to the ability to collect data via phone and online in a reliable and efficient manner.
FR&S presents the findings of mixed mode surveys to our clients in the aggregate as well as segments based on mode so we can observe any real difference based on mode collection.
We always place the caveat on the online and aggregated data that since online methods are not a true probability sample, that we cannot calculate or assign a tradition Margin of Error (MoE) to that portion of the survey or if the data has been aggregated, However, online surveys have proven to be increasingly reliable in our experience and observations. We put all surveys through our rigorous quality control checks to ensure reliability of the data.
We have conducted mixed mode for a range of clients, including school districts, units of government, public policy advocacy, and in some limited political campaigns in smaller jurisdictions. It is a good option to explore where a traditional phone only survey is not practical, would be unreliable or simply too inefficient to be able to conduct.
The bottom line is that w
ith appropriate quality controls, mixed mode surveys offer clients opportunities to learn information from their targets in cases where traditional methods would be impractical, unreliable or too costly.
For more than two decades FR&S has always adapted to the changing public opinion research profession to ensure reliability and quality in our work and we will continue to adapt to maintain our quality standards.
Dave Fako founded Fako Research & Strategies in 1998 with the goal of providing clients with quality, actionable research and strategies. Dave Fako is recognized for his attention to detail, hard work ethic, competitive drive and refusal to accept the "I can't" attitude. Dave Fako approaches all challenges and finds solutions to problems based on the winning philosophy espoused by the ancient Carthaginian General Hannibal and quoted by Saul Alinsky in his famous book, Rules for Radicals: "we will either find a way or make one". For thirty years, Dave Fako has developed strategy for campaigns at all levels throughout the country, has advised numerous public policy advocacy organizations, as well as national and regional private sector companies. Dave's expertise is state, local and judicial elections, as well as marriage equality, health care, and smoke-free issues, gaming, clean energy, education, tax and bond initiatives, telecommunications and pension and budget issues. More information on Fako Research and Strategies is found at www.fakoresearch.com.