The response rate shows the proportion of the target sample who were actually interviewed.
It is an indication of quality and how representative the sample is.
Very few surveys provide a full calculation of response rate. Sometimes what is referred to as a response rate is in fact a ‘return’ rate, e.g. the proportion of people approached to complete a panel or postal survey who return a questionnaire.
The NRS response rate is a complete response rate because it reflects both of the following:
- The proportion of the sample that is successfully contacted in the first place (81% in 2016)
- The proportion of identified participants who complete an interview (59% in 2016).
Multiplied together, these two elements provide the overall response rate, which in 2016 was 48%.
We believe that the single most important factor in maximising the response rate is the use of face-to-face interviewers, who establish a rapport with participants and encourage their cooperation.
A great deal of effort goes into maximising response rates, e.g.:
Fieldwork is structured over different days and times of day (7 days a week, including evenings)
Interviewers make numerous call-backs if necessary
Explanatory letters and information about the survey are available
NRS response rates at a national level have been very consistent over the past seven years.
Particular attention has been paid to London and the South East, where response rates have been increased. This was most notably due to the introduction of participant incentives to London in 2006 and to the South East in 2012.
A more detailed breakdown of the response rate and response rate trends from 1992 to 2016 can be seen here.