Can’t buy me love, but how about response? an analysis of response rates from the european business readership survey

1998 was the silver anniversary of the European Business Readership Survey (EBRS) jointly guaranteed by the Financial Times and Ipsos-RSL Ltd. In the course of its history, EBRS, like many other surveys, has seen a decrease in response rates – 58% in 1984 falling to 43% in 1998.
EBRS targets the most influential business decision-makers across seventeen European countries, a group from which it is notoriously difficult to elicit response. Sampling is undertaken in two stages: the first involves selecting a representative sample of eligible establishments from appropriate directories in each country; the second involves telephoning each establishment and obtaining the names of senior business executives with pre-selected responsibilities. The sample of individuals selected is then sent a questionnaire by post. Over the course of the EBRS series, different techniques have been employed to improve response, including different postage mechanisms and different types and values of incentives. In 1998, the 12th EBRS survey, there were four waves of mailing in total, with targeted use of incentives by country, and by sector within country. The results of the various tests conducted show that it is not possible to apply the same formula across countries: each country must be examined at each stage of the survey process to determine the most appropriate strategy. And it is not only response rates that determine the action taken but also the relative cost of different strategies and their impact on the overall survey schedule.

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