Survey response rate influencing factors

Survey response rate influencing factors

There are a range of factors which will impact on your survey response rate. Here are the main ones:

Time of year

It sounds obvious, but if you run a survey over Christmas or the school holidays you are likely to get a lower response rate than at other times.

The questionnaire

If the questionnaire is long or complex, this can impact on response rates. Similarly, if there are many open-ended questions, questions with long lists of possible answers, or matrix questions with large numbers of elements (rows), these can all lead to respondents dropping out.

Incentives or rewards

Generally speaking, the better the incentive the higher will be the response rate. It is easier to run a prize draw than to give all respondents an individual reward. And it is best for the prize draw to be something you can send digitally (such as Amazon vouchers). This is just easier from an administrative point of view. It also avoids disputes about whether the incentive was received.

Short survey invitations

The briefer your survey invitation, the higher will be the take-up rate. Whilst it might be tempting to include all sorts of information about the reasons for the survey, how you value their opinions, etc… in practice this just leads people to decline the invitation.

Brief welcome pages

As with the survey invitation wording, the shorter your introductory welcome message on the first page of the survey, the better. The longer it is, the more respondents will drop out.

Pause pages

If your questionnaire is fairly long, and you do not want to shorten it, then it can be helpful to include occasional pages which tell the respondent how they are progressing. Although you can use a Progress bar instead, these are often confusing in surveys that include any routing (i.e. questions that not everybody answers).


Depending on the survey software being used, it is possible to send reminders to those people who have not completed, or started, your online survey. In fact there can be a different reminder for non-starters and for those who have part-completed the questionnaire. One or two reminders can help with response rates.

There are various other factors, but essentially they boil down to thinking about the survey from the respondents’ point of view, and making it as appealing as possible for them to accept the invitation to take part, and then complete the questionnaire.