Joseph W. Sakshaug, Stefanie Wolter, Frauke Kreuter
Obtaining Record Linkage Consent. Results from a Wording Experiment in Germany

Survey Methods: Insights from the Field. 2015. Lausanne, Mannheim: Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences; GESIS Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences

Many sample surveys ask respondents for consent to link their survey information with administrative sources. There is significant variation in how linkage requests are administered and little experimental evidence to suggest which approaches are useful for achieving high consent rates. A common approach is to emphasize the positive benefits of linkage to respondents. However, some evidence suggests that emphasizing the negative consequences of not consenting to linkage is a more effective strategy. To further examine this issue, we conducted a gain-loss framing experiment in which we emphasized the benefit (gain) of linking or the negative consequence (loss) of not linking one’s data as it related to the usefulness of their survey responses. In addition, we explored a sunk-prospective costs rationale by varying the emphasis on response usefulness for responses that the respondent had already provided prior to the linkage request (sunk costs) and responses that would be provided after the linkage request (prospective costs). We found a significant interaction between gain-loss framing and the sunk-prospective costs rationale: respondents in the gain-framing condition consented to linkage at a higher rate than those in the loss-framing condition when response usefulness was emphasized for responses to subsequent survey items. Conversely, the opposite pattern was observed when response usefulness was emphasized for responses that had already been provided: loss-framing resulted in a higher consent rate than the gain-framing, but this result did not reach statistical significance.