15.12 Telephone

Trained interviewers call potential respondents on the telephone, often through random / automated dialing, and ask them a set of survey questions.

  • Advantages:

    • lower cost than face-to-face

    • non-response rate is relatively low because interviewers can keep calling back until the respondent is home

    • interviewers can collect a large amount of data in a short time.

  • Disadvantages:

    • some portions of the population do not have access to a telephone

    • increasing numbers use a mobile phone exclusively and FCC rules say that automated dialing to mobile phones is illegal

    • many respondents are suspicious of telephone interviews, consider them a sales pitch

    • long or complicated questions are inappropriate over the phone

    • increasing numbers of people have put themselves on federal “do not call” lists that prohibit researchers from calling

Evaluating telephone interview survey data:

  • Were the questionnaire and individual questions appropriately brief?

  • Were the telephone banks staffed in a central location? (Telephone interviewers who work from home are subject to less supervision, obviously)

  • What instructions were the interviewers given about who in the household they should interview?