Volunteer Panel Web Surveys in Urban Planning

Volunteer Panel Web Surveys in Urban Planning

Sunghee Lee (University of Michigan, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0074-4.ch003


Web surveys have been adopted as a practical data collection tool notably due to their economic nature and a fast turn-around time. One popular type of Web survey bases the sample on a group of Internet users who voluntarily join survey panels. Often labeled as a “volunteer panel Web survey,” this approach is widely used in various social science studies, including urban planning. Unfortunately, its practice appears to have highlighted its benefits and downplayed its limitations. This chapter provides an overview of volunteer panel Web surveys, including their operational procedures and methodological advantages and disadvantages. Arguably, its main methodological disadvantage is lacking representativeness of the results arising from selection biases in the selected samples. A post-survey statistical adjustment based on propensity score analysis has been suggested as a potential solution. The author introduces detailed procedures of propensity score adjustment and discusses future research directions for improving the utility of the volunteer panel Web surveys.
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The most frequently noted data quality issue of Internet-based surveys is their lacking coverage for the general population. Unlike the telephony communication system where only a small proportion of the general population may be missed in the developed parts of the world, Internet is not used by a sizable amount of the general population. Moreover, Internet nonusers are known to be different from users: they are likely to be older, less educated and less affluent. This is termed as, “digital divide,” which in turn is related to numerous characteristics that research addresses.

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