Opt-in panels found to be just as accurate as telephone surveys

A new study released by Brian Schaffner and Stephen Ansolabehere for the AAPOR conference has found that opt-in surveys are just as accurate random telephone surveys.

Writing about the study on pollster.com, Schaffner writes:

Overall, we found few, if any, differences between the opt-in Internet survey and the telephone poll. Specifically:

1) For measures that we could validate with government data, both the telephone poll and the opt-in Internet survey produced an average error that was nearly identical in size (about 5 percentage points, on average).

2) For political measures that we could not validate, the differences between the phone and Internet survey were generally small (with a few exceptions). For example, the average difference between estimates of political attitudes and opinions generated from each survey was about 5 percentage points. Furthermore, neither survey was consistently more liberal or conservative on these measures.

3) The correlational structure of the data was not significantly different across the phone and Internet surveys.

Thus, as we conclude in the report:

“Overall, our findings indicate that an opt-in Internet survey produced by a respected firm can produce results that are as accurate as those generated by a quality telephone poll and that these modes will produce few, if any, differences in the types of conclusions researchers and practitioners will draw in the realm of American public opinion.”

Abacus Data specializes in using internet panels for the bulk of its research.

We used internet panels for our research during the 2011 federal election and were one of three firms to predict the final popular vote totals within our comparable margins of error.  Online research affords our clients so many more opportunities and methods to collect data.  It helps makes research more interactive and enjoyable that traditional telephone surveys.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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