The role of topic interest and topic salience in online panel web surveys

Florian Keusch

University of Michigan


It is widely recognised that survey topic is one of the major motivators for survey participation. In a study conducted by GfK Germany, 92% of the 2,000 respondents said that an interesting topic is a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ reason for taking part in a survey (Wübbenhorst & Wildner 2007). This also seems to hold true for survey participation requests sent out via email (Couper 2005). Tuten (1997) shows that personal interest in the topic announced in the email subject line highly influences the decision as to whether a recipient opens the message or deletes it without reading. Particularly in nonprobability online access panels, where decreasing participation rates have become a problem,1 interest in the topic might be an even more important determinant of survey participation (Bethlehem & Stoop 2007). By contrast, it seems to be a controversial issue among researchers and panel providers alike whether or not to announce the web survey’s topic in the email invitation.