Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details

Journal of Official Statistics

The Journal of Statistics Sweden

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2015: 0.467
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.740

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.410
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.810
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.540

Open Access
See all formats and pricing

First Impressions of Telephone Survey Interviewers

Jessica Broome
  • University of Michigan – Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104, U.S.A.
  • Email:
Published Online: 2015-12-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jos-2015-0037


Survey nonresponse may increase the chances of nonresponse error, and different interviewers contribute differentially to nonresponse. This article first addresses the relationship between initial impressions of interviewers in survey introductions and the outcome of these introductions, and then contrasts this relationship with current viewpoints and practices in telephone interviewing. The first study described here exposed judges to excerpts of interviewer speech from actual survey introductions and asked them to rate twelve characteristics of the interviewer. Impressions of positive traits such as friendliness and confidence had no association with the actual outcome of the call, while higher ratings of “scriptedness” predicted lower participation likelihood. At the same time, a second study among individuals responsible for training telephone interviewers found that when training interviewers, sounding natural or unscripted during a survey introduction is not emphasized. This article concludes with recommendations for practice and further research.

Keywords: Survey; telephone; nonresponse; interviewer

5. References

  • Asch, S.E. 1946. “Forming Impressions of Personality.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 9: 258–290. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0055756. [Crossref]

  • Benkí, J., J. Broome, F. Conrad, R. Groves, and F. Kreuter. 2011. “Effects of Speech Rate, Pitch, and Pausing on Survey Participation Decisions.” Paper presented at the 66th annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Phoenix, AZ, May 14. Available at: http://www.amstat.org/sections/srms/proceedings/42011/files/400189.pdf (accessed September 29, 2015).

  • Cialdini, R.B. 1984. Influence: Science and Practice. New York: Harper Collins.

  • Conrad, F., J. Broome, J. Benkí, R. Groves, F. Kreuter, D. Vannette, and C. McClain. 2013. “Interviewer Speech and the Success of Survey Invitations.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 176: 191–210. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-985X.2012.01064.x. [Web of Science] [Crossref]

  • Conrad, F.G. and M.F. Schober. 2000. “Clarifying Question Meaning in a Household Telephone Survey.” Public Opinion Quarterly 64: 1–28. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/316757. [Crossref]

  • Curtin, R., S. Presser, and E. Singer. 2005. “Changes in Telephone Survey Nonresponse over the Past Quarter Century.” Public Opinion Quarterly 69: 87–98.

  • Fiske, S.T., A.J.C. Cuddy, and P. Glick. 2007. “Universal Dimensions of Social Cognition: Warmth and Competence.” Trends in Cognitive Science 11: 77–83. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.005. [Crossref]

  • Groves, R.M., B.C. O’Hare, D. Gould-Smith, J. Benkí, and P. Maher. 2007. “Telephone Interviewer Voice Characteristics and the Survey Participation Decision.” In Advances in Telephone Survey Methodology, edited by J.M. Lepkowski, C. Tucker, J.M. Brick, E.D. de Leeuw, L. Japec, P.J. Lavrakas, M.W. Link, and R.L. Sangster. (pp. 385–400). New York: Wiley.

  • Groves, R.M., S. Presser, and S. Dipko. 2004. “The Role of Topic Interest in Survey Participation Decisions.” Public Opinion Quarterly 68: 2–31. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfh002. [Crossref]

  • Houtkoop-Steenstra, H., and H. van den Bergh. 2000. “Effects of Introductions in Large-Scale Telephone Survey Interviews.” Sociological Methods and Research 28: 281–300. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0049124100028003002. [Crossref]

  • Huefken, V. and A. Schaefer. 2003. “Zum Einfluss Stimmlicher Merkmale und Ueberzeugungsstrategien der Interviewer auf die Teilnahme in Telefonumfragen.” Koelner Zeitschrift fuer soziologie und sozial psychologiei 55: 321–339.

  • Kelley, H.H. 1950. “The Warm-Cold Variable in First Impressions of Persons.” Journal of Personality 18: 431–439. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1950.tb01260.x. [Crossref]

  • Ketrow, S.M. 1990. “Attributes of a Telemarketer’s Voice and Persuasiveness: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature.” Journal of Direct Marketing 4: 7–21. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dir.4000040304. [Crossref]

  • Morton-Williams, J. 1993. Interviewer Approaches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Oksenberg, L. and C. Cannell. 1988. “Effects of Interviewer Vocal Characteristics on Nonresponse.” In Telephone Survey Methodology, edited by R.M. Groves, P.B. Biemer, L.E. Lyberg, J.T. Massey, W.L. II, Nichols, and J. Waksberg. (pp. 257–272). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

  • Oksenberg, L., L. Coleman, and C. Cannell. 1986. “Interviewers’ Voices and Refusal Rates in Telephone Surveys.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50: 97–111. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/268962. [Crossref]

  • O’Muircheartaigh, C. and P. Campanelli. 1999. “A Multilevel Exploration of the Role of Interviewers in Survey Nonresponse.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A 162: 437–446. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-985X.00147. [Crossref]

  • Rosenberg, S., C. Nelson, and P.S. Vivekananthan. 1968. “A Multidimensional Approach to the Structure of Personality Impressions.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 9: 283–294. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0026086. [Crossref]

  • Schober, M.F. and F.G. Conrad. 1997. “Does Conversational Interviewing Reduce Survey Measurement Error?” Public Opinion Quarterly 61: 576–602. [Crossref]

  • Sharf, D.J., and M.E. Lehman. 1984. “Relationship Between the Speech Characteristics and Effectiveness of Telephone Interviewers.” Journal of Phonetics 12: 219–228.

  • Snijkers, G., J. Hox, and E.D. de Leeuw. 1999. “Interviewers’ Tactics for Fighting Survey Nonresponse.” Journal of Official Statistics 15: 185–198.

  • Steinkopf, L., G. Bauer, and H. Best. 2010. “Nonresponse in CATI-Surveys.” Methods, Data, and Analysis 4: 3–26. Available at: http://www.gesis.org/fileadmin/upload/forschung/publikationen/zeitschriften/mda/Vol.4_Heft_1/01_Best.pdf (accessed September 29, 2015).

  • Teitler, J.O., N.E. Reichman, and S. Sprachman. 2003. “Costs and Benefits of Improving Response Rates for a Hard-to-Reach Population.” Public Opinion Quarterly 67: 126–138. [Crossref]

  • United States Census Bureau. 2010. “Educational Attainment.” Available at: http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/cps/2010/tables.html.

  • Van der Vaart, W., Y. Ongena, A. Hoogendoorn, and W. Dijkstra. 2005. “Do Interviewers’ Voice Characteristics Influence Cooperation Rates in Telephone Surveys?” International Journal of Opinion Research 18: 488–499. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/edh117. [Crossref]

About the article

Received: 2012-11-01

Revised: 2015-02-01

Accepted: 2015-03-01

Published Online: 2015-12-16

Published in Print: 2015-12-01

Citation Information: Journal of Official Statistics, ISSN (Online) 2001-7367, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jos-2015-0037. Export Citation

© 2015 Jessica Broome, published by De Gruyter Open. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in