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Research Article Research Article

How humor can boost response rates in online survey research

Incorporating humor tailored to the voice of the audience can be an easy, efficient and effective way to increase survey response rates among young adults, according to a new study conducted by Truth Initiative researchers and published in the online journal Social Science Computer Review.

Researchers identified 2,963 participants in the Truth Initiative Young Adult Cohort, a longitudinal survey of 18-34 year olds studying the trajectory of tobacco use, who did not respond to a standard e-mail invitation to complete a follow-up survey. Two experimental follow-up e-mails were created to test whether the injection of humor could increase the survey response rate.

The non-respondents were broken into three groups. One group received a standard e-mail reminder to complete their survey, another received an e-mail that incorporated humor, and a third group received an e-mail reminder that incorporated humor plus statistics.

Survey email

The use of humor in e-mails increased the odds of response to the survey by 23 percent compared to standard e-mail follow-up.

“Given the popularity of online data collection for conducting surveys, it’s important to find ways to increase participation and cut down on nonresponse bias. Our findings show that a little humor can go a long way toward increasing participation with a young adult audience,” said Dr. Jessica Rath, Managing Director of Evaluation Science and Research at Truth Initiative and lead author on the study.