The impact of academic sponsorship on Web survey dropout and item non-response
This paper reports two experiments in which the prominence of university sponsorship on Web surveys was systematically manipulated, and its effects on dropout and item non-response were observed. In Study 1, 498 participants were randomised to online surveys with either high or low university sponsorship. Overall, 13.9 percent of participants commenced, but did not complete the surveys, and there was no difference between the proportions of participants dropping out of each condition. However, counter to our predictions, participants in the high sponsorship condition displayed significantly higher item non-response. In Study 2 (N = 159), which addressed a rival explanation for the findings in Study 1, the overall dropout rate was 23.9 percent and sponsorship prominence had no effect on either outcome variable. Overall, these findings suggest that hosting information pages on university Web sites, placing university logos on survey pages, and including the name of the university in survey URLs do not reliably impact on dropout or item non-response. Although it may seem disappointing that enhancing sponsor visibility is not sufficient to reduce dropout and item non-response, researchers without ready access to university Web servers or branding will appreciate these findings, as they indicate that minimally visible sponsorship does not necessarily compromise data quality.
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