Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Field Methods 32:1 (2020), pp 89-104.

DOI: 10.1177/1525822X19888707


Copyright © 2019 Jolene D. Smyth and Kristen Olson. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


Telephone survey interviewers need to be able to accurately record answers to questions. While straightforward for closed questions, this task can be complicated for open questions. We examine interviewer recording accuracy rates from a national landline random digit dial telephone survey. We find that accuracy rates are over 90% for numeric response and interviewer-code, single-response items but are astonishingly low (49%) for a multiple-answer, nominal, interviewer-code item. Accuracy rates for narrative open questions were around 90% for themes but only about 70% for themes and elaborations. Interviewer behaviors (e.g., probing, feedback) are generally associated with lower accuracy rates. Implications for questionnaire design, interviewer training, and coding procedures are discussed.

Includes Supplemental material (from Figshare).