Brady T. West, Frauke Kreuter
Strategies for increasing the accuracy of interviewer observations of respondent features: evidence from the U.S. National Survey of Family Growth

Methodology, 2018: 14, issue 1, pp. 16-29
ISSN: 1614-1881 (print); 1552-3969 (online)

Because survey response rates are consistently declining worldwide, survey researchers strive to obtain as much auxiliary information on sampled units as possible. Surveys using in-person interviewing often request that interviewers collect observations on key features of all sampled units, given that interviewers are the eyes and ears of the survey organization. Unfortunately, these observations are prone to error, which decreases the effectiveness of nonresponse adjustments based on the observations. No studies have investigated the strategies being used by interviewers tasked with making these observations, or examined whether certain strategies improve observation accuracy. This study is the first to examine the associations of observational strategies used by survey interviewers with the accuracy of observations collected by those interviewers. A qualitative analysis followed by multilevel models of observation accuracy shows that focusing on relevant correlates of the feature being observed and considering a diversity of cues are associated with increased observation accuracy.