Survey response rate levels and factors

Survey response rate levels

What survey response rate can typically be expected? In this article we are going to look at response rates for online surveys, rather than, say, telephone or face-to-face surveys, because these are used most often.

Survey response rate definition

A survey response rate is the proportion of people invited who actually begin the survey. In other words, if you send 1000 email invitations and 100 recipients click on the survey link to take part, then the survey response rate is 10%. This would apply even if those people get to the first page of the questionnaire and then decide not to continue.

Survey completion rate

If all 100 people who click to begin the survey actually go on to complete the questionnaire, then the survey completion rate is the same as the response rate, at 10%. If half of them drop out part way through, then the survey completion rate would be 5%. So, completion rates are as relevant to researchers as response rates.

When survey response rate is irrelevant

If you are running a survey using an access panel for sample, then typically you do not need to worry about the response rate. That’s because with a panel survey you just request a certain number of completed questionnaires. It is for the panel to concern themselves with the response rate.

What survey response rate you can expect

It depends on lots of factors, one being the type of audience. For example, an employee or staff online survey could return a response rate of near 100%. This could be if there is a lot of “encouragement” by senior management. But a survey with respondents from a bought-in database may yield a response rate of just, say, 2.5%. As a rule of thumb, most online surveys with customers would expect to have a response rate of 5%-10%.

Survey response rate determining factors

These include the type of audience and source of the sample, the number and nature of the questions in the questionnaire, whether there is an incentive such as a prize draw, and various other factors. We cover these in a separate article.