Survey mode and timing


  • • The use of different survey modes can produce differences in subjective well-being data - although the significance and magnitude of the differences varies considerably from study to study due to the large number of variables that can influence mode effects. Given the number of trade-offs to be considered when selecting between survey modes, there is no one clear “winner” - although from a data quality perspective, face-to-face interviewing appears to have a number of advantages.
  • • Where mixed-mode surveys are unavoidable, it will be important for data comparability to select questions and response formats that do not require extensive modifications for presentation in different modalities. Details of the survey mode should be recorded alongside responses, and mode effects across the data should be systematically tested and reported.
  • • Aspects of the wider survey context, such as the day of the week that the survey is conducted and day-to-day events occurring around the time of the survey, can influence short-term affective measures but this should not be regarded as error. However, there is also some evidence that rare and/or significant events can impact on life evaluations.

• In terms of methodological implications, the key concern is to ensure that a variety of days are sampled. Comparability of data can be supported through adoption of a consistent approach regarding the proportion of weekdays/weekends, holiday periods and seasons of the year sampled.

Priorities for future work

  • • As larger and higher-quality data sets become available on subjective well-being, the role of survey mode will become clearer - including any international differences in effects. It will be essential that mode effects across the data should be systematically tested and reported, enabling compilation of a more comprehensive inventory of questions known to be robust to mode effects.
  • • The effect of the wider survey context (day-to-day events, day of week, weather, climate, etc.) on eudaimonia remains largely unknown.
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