Survey Design: Using Internet-Based Surveys for Hard-to-Reach Populations

Abstract

In 2007, I began my PhD study to examine the political behaviour of Americans who reside abroad, and the impact of liberalised election administration rules on their political participation in elections held in the United States. Until this time, previous studies about the political behaviour of Americans had focused solely on Americans residing within the continental United States. However, the potential political impact of Americans residing overseas came to light during the 2000 Presidential Election controversy when it became apparent that overseas absentee votes cast in the state of Florida had the potential to determine the winner of that election. This case study examines the use of an Internet-based survey to collect data from this group of globally dispersed voters. I consider the issues of sampling, question construction and survey administration in this unique research environment. Close attention is paid in particular to the role of gatekeepers in providing access to difficult-to-reach populations, and the strategies that can be employed to make the most of survey data when gatekeepers restrict access.

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