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Cabinet Office consults on taking social survey online



The government is investigating the possibility of moving the Community Life Survey to a digital channel

The Cabinet Office is running a consultation on whether to move its Community Life Survey online.

It follows the earlier commissioning of social research company TNS BMRB to test an online survey methodology and explore whether the approach would make it possible to collect data effectively and cost-efficiently.

If the Cabinet Office goes ahead with the move, it would mark the extension of the Digital by Default service standard into an area in which there is currently a strong emphasis on face-to-face interviews.

The Community Life Survey is a Cabinet Office Official Statistic that tracks trends in policy areas such as volunteering, charitable giving, civic engagement and views on neighbourhoods. According to a blogpost by Katie Green of the Cabinet Office analysis and insight team, it is considering the change in an effort to reduce costs but wants to maintain high analytical standards.

Three questions

The experiments by TNS BMRB, which began in 2012, are dealing with three main questions: whether people respond to an online survey; any demographic biases in the profile of respondents; and whether the results differ compared with a face-to-face survey.

An earlier post from the analysis and insight team said that about 25% of people asked to participate did so, compared with 60% for face-to-face. Despite the reduction, this was regarded as showing it is possible to recruit people to take part.

Early tests also showed some differences when the same people took face-to-face and online tests. Alternative explanations have been offered: one that people want to be seen more favourably when interviewed face-to-face; another that are not so concerned to keep their answers when accurate when responding online.

The experiments are continuing in an effort to establish a clearer picture.

The consultation is open until 2 January 2016.

Image from GOV.UK under Open Government Licence v3.0


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