Researchers develop new way to survey people who don’t answer the phone

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American Population Panel seeks to reach people in the digital age

Wire Reports

Researchers at The Ohio State University are working on a new approach to solve a challenge created by the digital age.

CHRR at The Ohio State University is developing the American Population Panel as a powerful new research tool to reach people in an era where getting real answers is more difficult than ever. Setting up the American Population Panel is being funded in part by The Ohio State University and GateHouse Media – who own and operate The Dispatch Media Group in Columbus, Ohio, in addition to daily and weekly news operations across the United States – to enhance their respective areas of study and research.

“People throw much of their mail into the trash or recycling bin. Landlines are less common today in households than they were in the past and rarely answered. Cell phone users are also increasingly unlikely to answer calls from unknown sources,” said Elizabeth Cooksey, professor of sociology and director of CHRR. “All of these trends make recruiting survey respondents difficult.”

Cooksey and her team are now building the panel using a variety of new techniques including social media. They are using Facebook and other social media platforms to recruit participants to join the panel and comparing this method to responses they get from telephone solicitations, email messages and postcards.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a panel of possible participants that we can contact for future research surveys,” Cooksey said.

Volunteers who agree to participate in social science and health-related studies make up the panel. Anyone 18 or older who lives in the U.S. can participate. The information is confidential and won’t be shared or sold.

Volunteers fill out a simple online form to join the panel and will be contacted at a future date to take part in the survey. The American Population Panel has a website with information about signing up and details on how the surveys are conducted.

While the approach to building the panel is new, the organization behind the effort has plenty of experience. CHRR has been involved in managing complex social research projects since 1965. Its staffers develop survey software, design survey instruments and process the data.

The center already has organizations lined up to work with the panel when it’s ready. The Dispatch Media Group and Ohio State’s Office of University Communications plan to survey American Population Panel members about media consumption patterns in the 21st century.

Cooksey said researchers with the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are also interested in using the panel.

“This will provide a new resource for researchers because it’s so hard and so expensive to get people to do social science or health-related research because people won’t answer their phones and they’re inundated with marketing requests.”

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