Sociology, Department of


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Presented at “Interviewers and Their Effects from a Total Survey Error Perspective Workshop,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln, February 26-28, 2019.


Copyright 2019 by the authors.


The presence of a third person in face-to-face interviews constitutes an important contextual factor that affects the interviewee's responses to culturally sensitive questions (Aquilino, 1997; Casterline and Chidambaram, 1984; Mneimneh et al., 2015; Pollner and Adams, 1994). Interviewers play an essential role in requesting, achieving, and reporting on the private setting of the interview. Our recent work has shown that the rate of interview privacy varies significantly across interviewers; while some interviewers report high rates of privacy among their interviews, others report low rates of privacy for the interviews they administered (Mneimneh et al., 2018). Yet, there is a lack of understanding of what explains such interviewer variation in interview privacy. Do certain interviewer characteristics such as experience, socio-demographics, and attitudes towards privacy explain such variations? What about the measurement quality of the privacy observation measures interviewers collect? Is it possible that section-specific measures (where the interviewer collects such observations right after questionnaire sections) show less interviewer variation than end-of-the-interview measures (the commonly used method of collecting interview privacy data) because of potential differential recall across interviewers?

This paper explores these research questions for the first time using data from a national mental health survey conducted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A total of 4000 face-to-face interviews were completed using a computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) mode. Interviewers were required to record their observations regarding the presence of a third person at the end of several questionnaire sections throughout the interview, in addition to recording this information about the overall presence of a third person at the conclusion of the interview. We use these two types of observations and measure the contribution of interviewer variation to these estimates. We then compare predictors of interview privacy for each of the two types of observations using a series of multilevel models focusing on the effect of interviewer-level characteristics (while controlling for respondent and household level characteristics). Findings from this paper will have important practical implications related to training interviewers on requesting, maintaining, and reporting information on the private setting of the interview.