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Effects of Incentives on Survey Response Rates in Two Rural Counties

John Strauser, William P. Stewart, Lorraine Foelske, Nathan Shipley, Nicole M. Evans, Jaime Coon, Carena J. Van Riper


Surveys of a general population have been a mainstay of leisure and recreation research methods. This study assesses the impact of two different pre-incentives on eliciting a survey response. Two counties with large federal prairie restoration projects and active municipal and county park districts were the study sites. Results show that residents whose pre-incentive was two $1 bills had a significantly higher response rate than residents with a pre-incentive of one $2 bill. With park operations being responsive to needs and preferences of residents, the most accurate representation of the general population of constituents is an important goal in any research effort. Given that pre-incentives have become a standard and sizeable portion of a survey’s budget, maximizing the effectiveness of the pre-incentive investment is a small, yet critical, part of connecting research to practice.

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survey research; methods; non-response bias; financial incentive; pre-incentive

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