Obtaining Sensitive Information From a Wary Population: A Comparison of Telephone and Fave-to-Face Surveys of Substance Use and Treatment Needs Among Families Receiving Government Assistance

Kelly Damphousse, University of Oklahoma
William Alex Pridemore, University of Oklahoma

This paper compares the responses to identical telephone and face-to-face surveys of substance use and treatment needs among low-income families receiving government assistance. Beyond the general methodological points to consider when deciding between telephone and face-to-face interviews, the idiosyncratic substantive issues of a study must also be taken into account. These include the population surveyed and the potentially sensitive nature of the questions asked. While computer-assisted telephone interviewing is often more efficient and standardized than face-to-face interviewing, undertaking surveys in person can also be advantageous. One key advantage is that it may be easier to create a rapport between the interviewer and the respondent, thereby establishing a greater level of trust. This is vital when asking sensitive questions of wary subjects. Here, we compare the responses to sensitive questions of those interviewed telephonically and those surveyed in person. The results are then discussed in terms of their importance both to general survey methodology and to obtaining sensitive information from a wary population.

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Updated 05/20/2006