Does Sequence Matter in Multimode Surveys: Results from an Experiment

Interest in a multimode approach to surveys has grown substantially in recent years, in part due to increased costs of face-to-face (FtF) interviewing and the emergence of the Internet as a survey mode. Yet, there is little systematic evidence of the impact of a multimode approach on survey costs and errors. This article reports the results of an experiment designed to evaluate whether a mixed-mode approach to a large screening survey would produce comparable response rates at a lower cost than an FtF screening effort. The experiment was carried out in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), an ongoing panel study of Americans over age 50. In 2010, HRS conducted a household screening survey to recruit new sample members to supplement the existing sample. The experiment varied the sequence of modes with which the screening interview was delivered. One treatment offered mail first, followed by FtF interviewing; the other started with FtF and then mail. A control group was offered only FtF interviewing. Results suggest that the mixed-mode options reduced costs without reducing response rates to the screening interview. There is some evidence, however, that the sequence of modes offered may impact the response rate for a follow-up in-depth interview.