Christoph Kern, Jan Karem Höhne, Stephan Schlosser, Melanie Revilla
Completion Conditions and Response Behavior in Smartphone Surveys: A Prediction Approach Using Acceleration Data

Social Science Computer Review, 2021: 39, issue 6, pp. 1253–1271
ISSN: 0894-4393 (print), 1552-8286 (online)

This study utilizes acceleration data from smartphone sensors to predict motion conditions of smartphone respondents. Specifically, we predict whether respondents are moving or nonmoving on a survey page level to learn about distractions and the situational conditions under which respondents complete smartphone surveys. The predicted motion conditions allow us to (1) estimate the proportion of smartphone respondents who are moving during survey completion and (2) compare the response behavior of moving and nonmoving respondents. Our analytical strategy consists of two steps. First, we use data from a lab experiment that systematically varied motion conditions of smartphone respondents and train a prediction model that is able to accurately infer respondents’ motion conditions based on acceleration data. Second, we use the trained model to predict motion conditions of respondents in two cross-sectional surveys in order to compare response behavior of respondents with different motion conditions in a field setting. Our results indicate that active movement during survey completion is a relatively rare phenomenon, as only about 3%–4% of respondents were predicted as moving in both cross-sectional surveys. When comparing respondents based on their predicted motion conditions, we observe longer completion times of moving respondents. However, we observe little differences when comparing moving and nonmoving respondents with respect to indicators of superficial responding, indicating that moving during survey completion does not pose a severe threat to data quality.