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Expect the World to Mess Up Your Data: Surveying the Political Attitudes and Behavior of Immigrant Groups

By: Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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This case provides a rationale for the use of convenience samples when surveying minority populations. It is based on a comparative study of the effects of social policies on the political participation of immigrants. It discusses the opportunities and challenges related to a 2-year data collection effort with immigrants from India and El Salvador in the Greater Toronto Area (Canada) and Santa Clara County (United States), for which no sampling frames were available and which included a survey study administered through face-to-face interviews with 525 respondents. I explain how my research design combined a most-similar systems and a survey design. Drawing from a variety of challenges that occurred in the recruitment and retention of survey respondents, I explain why random and representative samples, which represent the golden standard of survey research, might result in consequential selection biases when working with minority populations. I describe the advantages of convenience samples, also in comparison to other designs that have been applied in the literature, such as semi-structured elite interviews. I argue that research designs that involve minority populations make it clear that data-generation processes are forms of social interactions that are regulated by trust and “save face” dynamics such as those that characterize all other forms of social relations. Acknowledging such dynamics, as convenience samples make possible, allows for the inclusion of research respondents that would most likely be excluded from other kinds of research designs.

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