The Relationship between Interviewer-Respondent Rapport and Data Quality

Interviewer-respondent rapport is generally considered to be beneficial for the quality of the data collected in survey interviews; however, the relationship between rapport and data quality has rarely been directly investigated. We conducted a laboratory experiment in which eight professional interviewers interviewed 125 respondents to see how the rapport between interviewers and respondents is associated with the quality of data-primarily disclosure of sensitive information-collected in these interviews. It is possible that increased rapport between interviewers and respondents might motivate respondents to be more conscientious, increasing disclosure; alternatively, increased rapport might inhibit disclosure because presenting oneself unfavorably is more aversive if respondents have a positive relationship with the interviewer. More specifically, we examined three issues: (1) what the relationship is between rapport and the disclosure of information of varying levels of sensitivity, (2) how rapport is associated with item nonresponse, and (3) whether rapport can be similarly established in video-mediated and computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPIs). We found that (1) increased respondents' sense of rapport increased disclosure for questions that are highly sensitive compared with questions about topics of moderate sensitivity; (2) increased respondents' sense of rapport is not associated with a higher level of item nonresponse; and (3) there was no significant difference in respondents' rapport ratings between video-mediated and CAPI, suggesting that rapport is just as well established in video-mediated interviews as it is in CAPI.