Quality & Quantity 33: 59–76, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Interviewers, Interviewer Continuity, and
Panel Survey Nonresponse
and COLM O’MUIRCHEARTAIGH
Independent Research Consultant, 33 Military Road, Colchester, Essex CO1 2AD, U.K.,
Author for correspondence) E-mail: email@example.com;
University of Chicago, U.S.A.
Telephone: +44 (0) 1206 561371
Abstract. It is widely known that in practice, different interviewers have different response rates,
though there has been no systematic examination of whether this is because of differences among
interviewers or differences among those areas allocated to the interviewers (‘area’ effects), or both.
Furthermore, the conventional wisdom in survey research suggests that it is advisable to have the
same interviewers return to the same respondents in order to maintain good response rates in lon-
gitudinal surveys, though once again there has been very little documented experimental research
to support this. This paper makes use of the interpenetrated sample design experiment in Wave 2
of the British Household Panel Study (BHPS) (i) to explore the effects of interviewers’ background
characteristics and years of experience on response rates, (ii) to identify and estimate the differential
effects of interviewers on response rates and compare the magnitudes of area and interviewer effects,
and (iii) to investigate the impact of ‘interviewer continuity’. The analysis is facilitated by the use
of cross-classiﬁed multilevel modelling. The paper also looks at the issue of interviewer continuity
qualitatively, through the impressions of the interviewers themselves.
Key words: interviewers, panel surveys, nonresponse, interviewer continuity, hierarchical models.
It has long been recognised that the job of the survey interviewer is the critical
link between the survey organisation and address residents and much has been
written about survey interviewing (see, for example, Hyman, 1954, 1975; Kahn
and Cannell, 1957; Sudman and Bradburn, 1974; Dijkstra and van der Zouwen,
1982; Fowler and Mangione, 1990). What has received less attention is the impact
of the interviewer on survey nonresponse.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE INTERVIEWER
A few studies have looked at the relationship between background characteristics
of interviewers and nonresponse. The results do not offer a clear pattern. For ex-