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

    • A telemarketer with a phone headset
      PublicDomainImages – CC0

      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?


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Information Strategies for Communicators by Kathleen A. Hansen and Nora Paul is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.