Why Do Multicultural Populations Take Online Surveys?

November 7, 2017 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

As a researcher who has worked in the sample industry for over a decade, I was surprised that I had never asked myself the question, “why do people take online surveys?” It’s a practice that we just kind of take for granted in our industry. Researchers often assume that the primary driver is incentives, as every panel gives some sort of incentive to panelists to encourage participation. But because the incentives are small, there must be a more fundamental reason people take the time to check a few boxes.

From my experience building Hispanic panels, I know certain incentive structures work better with certain cohorts of Hispanics. So, I hypothesized that this must hold true across multicultural populations.

The Research

One of the perks of being a researcher with access to panels is that we can answer questions we are curious about! So, we surveyed a representative sample of 1,250; 500 Hispanics, 250 Whites, 250 African-Americans, and 250 Asians asking one simple question:

What would you say is the main reason why you take online surveys? Please select one.

It turns out, incentives top the list across all groups:

Over 30% of respondents in each group stated that “I like to earn points/money” as their primary driver for participating in online surveys. However, it is worth noting that Asians were statistically more likely than other groups to state this sentiment (42%).

The second factor impacting online survey participation (“I enjoy taking surveys”) ranks second for both Hispanics and Whites at 20%:

It is worth noting that “I enjoy taking surveys” is also the second most noted reason why African-Americans take online surveys, however at a significantly lower rate than Hispanics and Whites.

“I feel that my opinions can make a difference” takes a very close third for African-American respondents:

While slightly more Hispanic than African-American respondents noted that the main reason they take surveys is that they feel that their opinions can make a difference, this sentiment came in third overall for Hispanics.

Key Takeaways

As U.S. demographics become more multicultural, the need for brands to understand perhaps one of the most diverse consumer populations in U.S. history will grow. This creates a tremendous opportunity for research and insights providers. We’ve seen that play out as the demand for Hispanic, African-American, and Asian sample has steadily grown for the past decade. Yet, few companies have taken up the challenge of impaneling these groups in a meaningful way.

So, use this study to make an argument for your multicultural panel’s growing needs. Keep these three insights in mind if you plan to up your panel game in 2018.

  1. Incentives are important (for everyone) - don’t underestimate the power of incentives, however small they may be. Survey respondents are not looking to get rich, but incentives do provide some validation for respondents that their time is valuable. As I mentioned earlier, incentives are particularly of interest to Asians. If you’re doing a study and you’re struggling with Asian quotas, incentives are a particularly powerful instrument to stimulate engagement with this demographic.
  2. Make your surveys enjoyable - Hispanics and Whites, the two largest demographic groups in the U.S., both enjoy taking surveys. So, make sure the survey experience enjoyable. Often, we don’t have much say in the surveys we deploy. But if you come across a particularly user-unfriendly survey, don’t be afraid to push back to your clients and suggest they go that route. Spell out the benefits to both the clients and the survey respondents. It can save you sample headaches down the line.
  3. Let your panelists know that they are making a difference - While the surveys we deploy may revolve around topics we deem to be insignificant, respondents feel like they are making a difference, and they are! Consumers research products they buy and use every day. As respondents represent a sample of the general consumer base, their input helps fellow consumers understand product value and make more informed decisions, which is gratifying. African-Americans, in particular, are particularly aware of their influence in shaping marketing and products around them. So, consider sending a simple newsletter to panelists keeping them updated on product developments that arose from their responses. That “team” approach could go a long way in respondent retention and sample quality.