Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.18, No.2, 2002. pp. 257–273

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A Comparison Between Mail and Web Surveys: Response Pattern, Respondent Profile, and Data Quality

This study reports results from a mode comparison between mail and web-based surveys, for the latter of which emails were used as a form of cover letter. Two samples of 1,000 target respondents were randomly selected from a university student population, and identical mail and web surveys were respectively administered to each of these samples. Findings of’this study revealed some of the opportunities and limitations that web surveys have. The web survey had significantly smaller turnaround time, but it had a lower response rate, both overall and for each of three mailings attempted. Interestingly, the advantage of the mail survey over the web survey in response rate seemed to become greater as repeated mailings were attempted. The web survey was found to have lower item nonresponse and longer open-ended’responses. Younger, male, avid Internet users, and those with greater technological sophistication tended to be over-represented in the web survey.

Survey mode effects; electronic survey; Internet survey; response rate.

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