Alexandru Cernat, Florian Keusch
Do surveys change behaviour? Insights from digital trace data

International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 2022: 25, issue 1, pp. 79-90
ISSN: 1364-5579 (print), 1464-5300 (online)

Surveys continue to be a popular way of collecting data in the social sciences. But, despite their popularity they have a number of limitations including the possibility of changing the behaviour of respondents. Such mere-measure or question-behaviour effects can compromise the external validity of social data. In this article, we use digital trace data collected from PCs and mobile devices to investigate the effects of surveys on news and politics consumption. Using a non-probability panel of respondents in Germany we combine the digital trace data with that from three online surveys regarding the federal election. In contrast to our expectation, the participation in the survey does not influence online news and politics media consumption. Furthermore, we find weak evidence that respondents with previous high media consumption are less likely to be influenced by doing the survey compared to those with low media consumption.