Questionnaire Colour and Mail Survey Response Rate

Francis Buttle
Cranfield University 
Gavin Thomas
Manchester Business School


Improving mail survey response rates, reducing item omission, promoting rapid response and reducing response bias have long been concerns for marketing researchers. A very large number of variables have been tested for impact on levels of response (references to summary literature reviews are available from the first-named author). Reference was made to the impact of colour on questionnaire response rates as early as 1929. Reed (1929, p.142) wrote:

One of the first considerations [to obtain a high response rate] is the color of paper used in mail questionnaires. United States government officials who are responsible for the mailing of several million questionnaires every year have definitely determined that yellow paper gives the highest percentage of returns, with pink next in effectiveness, while all dark colors give much smaller returns.