What Do You Think? Using Expert Opinion to Improve Predictions of Response Propensity Under a Bayesian Framework

Stephanie Coffey, Brady T. West, James Wagner, Michael R. Elliott


Responsive survey designs introduce protocol changes to survey operations based on accumulating paradata. Case-level predictions, including response propensity, can be used to tailor data collection features in pursuit of cost or quality goals. Unfortunately, predictions based only on partial data from the current round of data collection can be biased, leading to ineffective tailoring. Bayesian approaches can provide protection against this bias. Prior beliefs, which are generated from data external to the current survey implementation, contribute information that may be lacking from the partial current data. Those priors are then updated with the accumulating paradata. The elicitation of the prior beliefs, then, is an important characteristic of these approaches. While historical data for the same or a similar survey may be the most natural source for generating priors, eliciting prior beliefs from experienced survey managers may be a reasonable choice for new surveys, or when historical data are not available. Here, we fielded a questionnaire to survey managers, asking about expected attempt-level response rates for different subgroups of cases, and developed prior distributions for attempt-level response propensity model coefficients based on the mean and standard error of their responses. Then, using respondent data from a real survey, we compared the predictions of response propensity when the expert knowledge is incorporated into a prior to those based on a standard method that considers accumulating paradata only, as well as a method that incorporates historical survey data


Bayesian Analysis, Response Propensity, Expert Opinion, Elicitation of Priors, Responsive Survey Design

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12758/mda.2020.05


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Copyright (c) 2020 Stephanie Coffey, Brady T. West, James Wagner, Michael R. Elliott

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