Telephone Surveys

For surveys in which responses are collected by telephone, the Survey Research Center operates a 12-station telephone interviewing facility.  For research surveys or polls conducted over the phone, lists of telephone numbers are used to contact potential respondents.  These numbers can be generated at random to represent the general population or they can come from a list (for example, membership rosters, licensing registry, businesses, etc.). For public opinion polling, telephone surveys have the advantages of short field periods and a greater ability to maintain data quality control. Nearly all residents of the U.S. have access to a wireless or landline telephone, so that high rates of coverage are possible for the target population. Telephone surveys allow trained interviewers to guide respondents through the survey questionnaire, which improves data quality.

The SRC uses a project management system that stresses the importance of highly-trained telephone interviewers who work under the close supervision of senior staff. To ensure that the data collected are of the highest quality, interviewers are trained according to the standards established by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). The project supervisor conducts in-depth project briefings with the interviewing staff prior to the start of the project. Interviewers are briefed on the survey’s objectives, handling of complex survey questions, gaining respondent cooperation, screening for eligibility, reading of interviewer instructions, reviewing of skip patterns, probing for specific questions on the survey instrument, and protecting respondent confidentiality. Methods of instruction include lecture, role-playing through mock interviews, and video training.

Supervision over the interviewing process is performed by the survey center managers through extensive interviewer training, monitoring, and interviewer review. The survey center managers and statisticians edit each completed survey to check for clarity, understanding, completeness, and format.