Social Distance, Respondent Cooperation and Item Nonresponse in Sex Survey

Research paper by Su-Hao Tu, Pei-Shan Liao

Indexed on: 20 Feb '07Published on: 20 Feb '07Published in: Quality & quantity


This paper examines the ways in which the number of item nonresponses is determined by social distance and/or interview rapport, with a focus on responses of “refusal” and “don’t know”, implying the respondent’s lack of willingness and ability to provide substantive responses to sensitive questions. The data analyzed were from 39 self- administered questions concerning sexual attitudes and behaviors in the 2002 Taiwan Social Change Survey for module “Family and Changing Gender Role”. Poisson Regression in 2-level Hierarchical Linear Model was employed to enhance the accuracy of the analysis of the accumulation of “don’t know” and “refusal” responses. The results showed that respondent cooperation significantly decreased the number of both “don’t know” and “refusal” replies. The decrease was not conditioned by any kind of social distance. Age and education distances have respectively negative and positive effect on the number of “don’t know” and “refusal” answers. The married–married interview produced more “don’t know” and “refusal” than other paired interview types. The larger the ethnicity distance is, the more “refusal” appears. The substantial findings imply that the effects of social-distance and rapport (respondent cooperation) on the number of item nonresponses deserve more attention in research on survey methodology. The divergent findings on gender-distance effect and marital-status effect, however, call for replication studies in the future.