New Publication in Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology

Investigating Respondent Attention to Experimental Text Lengths by Tobias Rettig & Annelies Blom


Whether respondents pay adequate attention to a questionnaire has long been of concern to survey researchers. In this study, we measure respondents’ attention with an instruction manipulation check. We investigate which respondents read question texts of experimentally varied lengths and which become inattentive in a probability-based online panel of the German population. We find that respondent attention is closely linked to text length. Individual response speed is strongly correlated with respondent attention, but a fixed cutoff time is unsuitable as a standalone attention indicator. Differing levels of attention are also associated with respondents’ age, gender, education, panel experience, and the device used to complete the survey. Removal of inattentive respondents is thus likely to result in a biased remaining sample. Instead, questions should be curtailed to encourage respondents of different backgrounds and abilities to read them attentively and provide optimized answers.

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