Survey Response Rate

Survey Response Rate Definition

In survey research, response rate, also known as completion rate or return rate, is the number of people who completed the survey divided by the number who received an invitation or were in the sample.  It is usually expressed in the form of a percentage.


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The general consensus in academic surveys is to choose one of the six definitions summarized by the American Association for Public Opinion Research(AAPOR). These definitions are endorsed by the National Research Council and the Journal of the American Medical Association, among other well-recognized institutions. They are:

  1. Response Rate 1 (RR1) – or the minimum response rate, is the number of complete interviews divided by the number of interviews (complete plus partial) plus the number of non-interviews (refusal and break-off plus non-contacts plus others) plus all cases of unknown eligibility (unknown if housing unit, plus unknown, other).
  2. Response Rate 2 (RR2) – RR1 + counting partial interviews as respondents.
  3. Response Rate 3 (RR3) – estimates what proportion of cases of unknown eligibility is actually eligible. Those respondents estimated to be ineligible are excluded from the denominator. The method of estimation must be explicitly stated with RR3.
  4. Response Rate 4 (RR4) – allocates cases of unknown eligibility as in RR3, but also includes partial interviews as respondents as in RR2.
  5. Response Rate 5 (RR5) – is either a special case of RR3 in that it assumes that there are no eligible cases among the cases of unknown eligibility or the rare case in which there are no cases of unknown eligibility. RR5 is only appropriate when it is valid to assume that none of the unknown cases are eligible ones, or when there are no unknown cases.
  6. Response Rate 6 (RR6) – makes that same assumption as RR5 and also includes partial interviews as respondents. RR6 represents the maximum response rate.

If you're looking to increase your response rate be sure to check out this list of 34 tips.

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Vincent is the author of this solution article.

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