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Router Abuse: Pick Your Survey Sample Sources Carefully


Psychology research states that the average adult's attention span is approximately 20 minutes. So, if a survey is 20 minutes long, it should ensure good attention from respondents, right? 

Well, this seems logical, but there is a crucial aspect missing. Have you considered how long respondents have been engaging with surveys before they even reach yours? 

Direct Single-Survey Invites to Survey Routers

In the past, respondents were directly invited to participate in a survey. They would click on a link, complete a screener, proceed if they qualified, or stop if they didn't. Each subsequent study would come with a new link. 

The process, however, has evolved. Respondents are now directed to studies through a router. Respondents initially complete a screener, and if they don't qualify, the router redirects them to subsequent screeners until they qualify for participation. Some sample vendors may even re-route their respondents who terminate for all the surveys they have live towards another vendor’s router.

Respondents can be routed from one screener to the next for a number of iterations. They spend time and focus filling out screening questions over and over again. This, in turn, reduces their remaining attention span when they reach the survey they ultimately qualify for.

Graphic showing survey router process

Quantity vs. Quality

The best panels typically limit the number of screeners a respondent can take before directing respondents to update their profile (in exchange for a modest incentive). Unfortunately, this isn't a common practice. Many vendors keep the respondent in the router for as long as necessary until they either qualify or become frustrated and abandon the process.

A recent study conducted in the US by IntelliSurvey revealed some noteworthy statistics:

  • Only 34% of the sample consisted of fresh respondents (taking their first survey).
  • 19% of respondents had failed more than five screeners before reaching our study.
  • 10% of respondents had completed over 20 questions before starting our project.

These numbers represent the best-case scenario because we allowed everyone to qualify for our study. However, these figures worsen proportionally as the incidence rate drops.

Fielding in the Presence of Survey Routers

Routers are employed to direct the right traffic to the appropriate survey. This is particularly useful to optimize field when targeting specific demographics or leveraging profiling. However, it also opens the door to misuse. Some vendors may ask leading questions in their router before redirecting traffic to your survey. Unfortunately, this helps fraudsters bypass even non-leading screeners.

Considering what routers are and how they can be (mis-)used, best practice is to:

  1. Keep your surveys concise
  2. Choose panel sources that follow sensible router practices

How IntelliSurvey Can Help

IntelliSurvey’s expert fielding team can assist you in navigating sample sources and gathering the optimal sample for your surveys. Please contact us for more information.

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