Sensitive topics, survey nonresponse, and considerations for interviewer training

Am J Prev Med. 2006 Nov;31(5):419-26. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2006.07.010. Epub 2006 Sep 25.


This paper discusses current challenges in achieving higher survey participation rates in random-digit-dial telephone surveys and proposes steps to address them through interviewer training to avoid refusals. It describes features of surveys that contribute to respondent reluctance to participate and offers a brief overview of current refusal aversion training methods to reduce nonresponse. It then identifies what challenges that unique features of random-digit-dial telephone surveys on sensitive topics might contribute to nonresponse. Recommendations are then proposed for changes in refusal aversion training, standard survey introductions, and informed consent procedures. Finally, further research is called for to identify which methods best balance the need to improve response rates with respondent safety and privacy in surveys with sensitive questions.

MeSH terms

  • Domestic Violence
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Inservice Training*
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Privacy
  • Refusal to Participate*
  • Research Personnel / education*
  • Safety
  • Telephone
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries