Quality & Quantity 37: 411–434, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Respondent Related Correlates of Response
Behaviour in Audience Research
, HANS WAEGE and FILIP AGNEESSENS
Department of Population Studies and Social Science Research Methods, Ghent University, Korte
Meer 3, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Abstract. Audience research by means of surveys has a long tradition, certainly within arts and
humanities oriented research. Yet, due to selective sampling and unit nonresponse it frequently lacks
the methodological rigour to make scientiﬁcally valid statements based on sample estimates. This is
one of the ﬁrst attempts to explore unit nonresponse in audience research. More speciﬁcally, it focuses
on the explanation of nonresponse by the socio-demographic and more topic related characteristics
of a theatre audience. Using a two-step procedure for the on-site collection of data, the characteristics
of respondents are compared with those of nonrespondents. In step 1 the composition of the theatre
audience is compared to a proxy of a theatre population benchmark based on a weighted sample of
the Flemish population (APS-2000). The validity of this best available method is discussed. Step 2
compares respondents with nonrespondents on a micro-level: ignoring unit nonresponse in step 1,
we use logistic regression to map selection in step 2. The chance of cooperating with the survey
has been found to increase with educational attainment and vary according to occupational category.
Moreover, involvement with survey topic is conﬁrmed as a strong predictor of survey participa-
tion. Gender, age and experience with theatre remain insigniﬁcant in predicting response behaviour.
These ﬁndings are compared with the socio-demographic correlates of response behaviour in general
populations. Implications for statistically controlling for nonresponse bias in audience research are
discussed. Suggestions for further research are presented.
Key words: methodology, audience research, unit nonresponse, two-step data collection method,
Audience research in theatres by means of surveys has a long and venerable
tradition, certainly within arts and humanities oriented research (Davis and Mc-
Conachie, 1998; Greisenegger, 1984). Through the on-site collection of data by
means of a survey, researchers try to map and analyse a diversity of personal,
aesthetical and attitudinal characteristics of a theatre audience. Yet, however rich in
theory and subtle in reasoning this research may be, it frequently lacks the method-
ological rigour necessary to be able to do scientiﬁcally reliable and valid statements
on the composition of the audience or – for example – its aesthetical expectations
and evaluations. Due to high nonresponse rates the ﬁndings from these studies
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