Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.9, No.3, 1993. pp. 663672

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The Effect of Answering Machines on the Representativeness of Samples in Telephone Surveys

The increased incidence of answering machines has raised questions about the extent to which potential respondents in telephone surveys are using such devices to screen unwanted calls, and the effect that this may have on the representative character of samples in telephone surveys. This study examined the extent to which answering machines are used for screening purposes, the effect of repeated attempts to contact such households, and the demographic characteristics associated with answering machine use. The results indicate that while some such screening does take place, at this point it does not appear to be a major threat to the representativeness of telephone samples, and that repeated attempts to reach households with telephone answering machines result in successful contact in a large proportion of cases. Households with higher family incomes, those in urban areas, and those comprised of younger adults are more likely to use such devices for screening purposes.

Telephone answering machines; sampling; telephone methodology; representativeness; response rates.

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