Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology 3 (2015), pp. 1–36 doi: 10.1093/jssam/smv021


Copyright © 2015 Kristen Olson and Jolene D. Smyth. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Used by permission.


In this paper, we evaluate the joint effects of question, respondent, and interviewer characteristics on response time in a telephone survey. We include question features traditionally examined, such as the length of the question and format of response options, and features that have yet to be examined that are related to the layout and format of interviewer-administered questions. We examine how these question features affect the time to ask and answer survey questions and how different interviewers vary in their administration of these questions. This paper uses paradata from the Work and Leisure Today survey and uses cross-classified random effects models. Overall, most of the variation in response time is due to question characteristics, rather than respondent or interviewer attributes. Additionally, we find that question characteristics related to necessary survey design features and respondent confusion are the primary predictors of response time, with little effect of visual design features of the question.We also find modest differences in the effects of question characteristics by interviewer experience.