Is there an association between survey characteristics and representativeness? A meta-analysis

  • Carina Cornesse University of Mannheim and GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences
  • Michael Bosnjak GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim
Keywords: Meta-analysis, representativeness, R-Indicator, response rate, nonprobability sampling, mixed mode, web surveys, auxiliary data


How to achieve survey representativeness is a controversially debated issue in the field of survey methodology. Common questions include whether probability-based samples produce more representative data than nonprobability samples, whether the response rate determines the overall degree of survey representativeness, and which survey modes are effective in generating highly representative data. This meta-analysis contributes to this debate by synthesizing and analyzing the literature on two common measures of survey representativeness (R-Indicators and descriptive benchmark comparisons). Our findings indicate that probability-based samples (compared to nonprobability samples), mixed-mode surveys (compared to single-mode surveys), and other-than-Web modes (compared to Web surveys) are more representative, respectively. In addition, we find that there is a positive association between representativeness and the response rate as well as the number of auxiliary variables used in representativeness assessments. Furthermore, we identify significant gaps in the research literature that we hope might encourage further research in this area.