Description of Research Areas
Most recently, my work concentrates on determining the benefits of flexible calendar interviewing in comparison to standardized interviewing. Calendar interviewing permits the use of cues that are available in the structure of autobiographical memory more readily than standardized interviews. Because calendar interviewing is more flexible, it facilitates using as cues to assist respondents to report events that are difficult to remember those events that had been remembered more readily. Moreover, there is a growing appreciation among survey methodologists that standardized interviewing methods fail to implement conversational properties that exist more readily in flexible interviewing approaches, and which may improve respondents' abilities to understand questions more accurately. Hence, calendar interviews, because they promote better understanding and memory in comparison to standardized interviews, should be shown to perform better. Experiments that have compared calendar and standardized interviewing approaches, usually, but not always, have found that calendar approaches lead to higher quality retrospective reports. To assess reasons for the benefits of one interviewing method in comparison to the other, current work is examining which verbal behaviors lead to the highest quality retrospective reports.
- Cognitive Aspects of Survey Methodology
A continually emerging field in survey methodology is seeking to understand how cognitive processes impact on the quality of survey reports. Researchers in this field examine both the quality of attitudinal and factual reports. My research concentrates on factual reports, and more specifically on the quality of retrospective reports, that is, reports that respondents provide in surveys on their autobiographical pasts.
- Calendar Interviewing
Calendar interviewing is a flexible style of interviewing in which cues available in the structure of autobiographical knowledge are used to assist respondents to more accurately retrospectively report on their pasts. I have conducted several experiments that have shown that in comparison to standardized interviews, calendar interviewing usually does provide benefits to the quality of retrospective reports.
- Interviewing Methodology
The conversational interactions between interviewers and respondents have been shown to impact the understanding of survey questions, and the ability of respondents to accurately recall their pasts. To assess these conversational interactions, different types of verbal behaviors between interviewers and respondents are identified, and their impact on response quality is assessed.
- Models for Categorical Data Analysis
Over the past 2-3 decades, as the computational speed of computers has grown, researchers have developed increasingly sophisticated models for the analysis of categorical data. Categorical data-that is, data for which averages are not meaningful (e.g., national origin, partisan identification, whether one has voted or not) -are of great concern to survey research, since most of the data collected in surveys and polls are categorical in nature. My research focuses on new models for analyzing and presenting such data in the modern survey setting.
- Cross-National and Trend Survey Research
Globalization has led to an increased awareness that public opinion, values, and beliefs must be understood globally. A quarter of a century ago, most survey studies focused on the population of only a single nation, at a single point in time. In the 21st Century, an expanding number of studies are focusing on populations of several nations, and are attempting to chart the nature of change in these populations over time. My research focuses on studying the nature of cross-national changes in opinions, values, and beliefs in publics worldwide.
- Mode Effects Research
One of the consistent findings in survey methodology is that the mode of data collection-that is whether the interviews are conducted as in-person face-to-face surveys, by telephone surveys, by mail-out questionnaires, or by internet/web surveys-may influence the responses we obtain. This reminds us that surveys are social interactions-that we may respond differently to questions if we are asked by some one we see (face-to-face), only hear (telephone), or do not see at all (mail-out and web surveys). Part of my research examines how the phenomenon of "mode effects" influences the nature and quality of the research data we collect.
- Politics and Religion
Most research-even though methodologically directed-focuses on substantive topics of interest. Most of my research has focused on the changing role of political and religious behaviors, attitudes, values, and beliefs over the past 2-3 decades in the Americas and Europe.
- Survey Nonresponse
Response rates to surveys have been falling in Western countries for the last few decades. Why this is happening and the conditions under which it affects estimates made from the survey are still unknown. My research focuses on understanding when the likelihood of survey participation is related to the items measured in a survey, whether correlates of survey participation change over time, and how participation in cross-sectional surveys differs from participation in longitudinal surveys.
- Intersection of Nonresponse and Measurement Errors
A long standing hypothesis in the survey literature is that people who participate in surveys are likely to give poor quality answers. My research examines this hypothesis, drawing on a newly developed conceptual framework for understanding the circumstances under which response propensity and measurement error might be related. The relationship between nonresponse propensity and measurement error on behavioral, attitudinal, and knowledge questions are being examined in light of this framework.
- Interviewer Effects
Interviewers in surveys have long been known to have an effect on an individual's decision to participate in a survey and the quality of answers that are provided. How an interviewer acquires these behaviors is less well-understood. My research examines how an interviewer's perceptions and behaviors change with increased experience and over interactions with a respondent.
- Visual Design
With the growing popularity of the Internet as a survey mode, increasing attention has been given to the effects of visual design on survey measurement. Research has shown that the visual design of survey questions and questionnaires in both mail and web modes can significantly impact respondents understanding of and ability to process survey questions, and thus, their responses. My research in this area focuses on how various visual elements (numbers, symbols, graphics, shapes, etc) and their properties (i.e., location, color, contrast, motion, etc.) affect the response process. This leads me to an exploration of both how poor visual design can produce error and how good visual design can be used strategically to minimize error and to encourage quality responses.
- Survey Mode Effects
Surveyors now have more modes available to them than ever before, but it is becoming increasingly challenging to get respondents to participate in our surveys. To try to maintain or increase response rates, many now find it necessary to use more than one mode to contact respondents and/or collect data, and oftentimes modes that rely on entirely different types of communication (aural vs. visual) are used jointly. This relatively new tendency raises the question of whether or not data collected in one mode can be combined with data collected in another for analyses. It also raises interesting questions about how best to construct survey questions for use across modes (i.e., should the questions be written exactly the same for both modes or should variations be allowed to account for the strengths and weaknesses of each mode?). My research in this area explores under what conditions different survey modes yield comparable or uncomparable data and what can be done at the design stage to minimize differences due to mode.
- Survey Implementation and Nonresponse
I am also currently working on a project that examines the effectiveness of different implementation features on response rates. This area of research is important inasmuch as response rates are declining across all of our major survey modes. As respondents get harder and harder to contact and to convince to participate, finding new and innovative ways of gaining their cooperation becomes paramount.