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Survey Provider and Sponsor Reputation Influence Survey Participation

2012 February 15

ResearchBlogging.orgA recent study by Fang, Wen and Pavur[1] investigated the extent to which the reputation of survey sponsors (e.g. corporations) and technology providers (e.g. SurveyMonkey) impact response rates.  They discovered an interaction between the two and concluded, “A sponsoring corporation with a weak reputation who contracts with a survey provider having a strong reputation results in increased participation willingness from potential respondents if the identity of the sponsoring corporation is disguised in a survey.”

They discovered this with a series of 3 fairly small experiments (N=100, 100, 200) with Chinese participants.  In each experiment, “strong reputation” providers were picked from well-known Chinese firms while the “weak reputation” providers were fictitious.  So “strong” and “weak” might be better described as “having a strong reputation” versus “not having any reputation”.

In each experiment, participants were exposed to both strong and weak providers, so all results here are within-subject.  The surveys were counterbalanced so as to neutralize order effects.  Participants looked at several surveys and then rated their willingness to take each.  So what did they do in each?

  • Experiment 1 examined the effect of sponsoring program corporation reputation and found a small positive effect of corporate reputation (d = .17).
  • Experiment 2 examined the effect of technology provider reputation and found a moderate positive effect of provider reputation (d = .30).
  • Experiment 3 examined both simultaneously and found both main effects and an interaction between the two.  When the sponsoring corporation reputation was weak, technology provider did not matter.  When the sponsoring corporation was strong, a strong technology provider reputation was even more beneficial.

So as far as I can tell, the broad conclusion stated above was not actually tested anywhere.  Instead, what we can safely conclude is that technology provider reputation is most important, while sponsor reputation also plays a role.  A good reputation of both is further beneficial in comparison.  As the study operationalized low reputation as “no reputation,” the effect may be even larger in comparison to institutions with poor reputations.  And finally, it is unclear the extent to which a population of Chinese respondents is similar to those of any other nationality.  In the United States, for example, corporate sponsorship might be met with more skepticism.

  1. Fang, J., Wen, C., & Pavur, R. (2012). Participation willingness in web surveys: Exploring effect of sponsoring corporation’s and survey provider’s reputation Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0411 []
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