NEWS15 July 2013

Federal survey respondent incentives safe for now

Government North America

US — The threat to respondent incentives appears to have receded this year following a vote in the House of Representatives.

The House passed the Fiscal Year 2014 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill without any ban on respondent incentives in federal surveys.

A vote in 2013 saw the House overwhelmingly approve an amendment from Representative Scott Tipton that would have prohibited agencies covered by the legislation from funding surveys in which money is included or provided for the benefit of the responder.

As a result, the Market Research Association (MRA), the Population Association of America and American Statistical Association lobbied the Senate and rallied for support from the Office of Management and Budget to ensure there was no amendment in this year’s bill.

Despite no such amendment this year, the MRA warned that there was still a serious threat following Tipton’s introduction of legislation last autumn to ban respondent incentives for every federal survey, and the grilling of the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation about their use of respondent incentives during the 16 April hearing at the subcommittee on Water & Power.

In addition, the MRA said it had received indications in spring from key House staff that other members of the House Natural Resources Committee would likely continue to battle on the issue.

MRA director of government affairs Howard Fienberg said: “Of course, this abeyance may only be temporary, so MRA and our allies will remain on guard and continue to educate policymakers that respondent incentives are an essential tool in the research toolbox and that banning incentives is more likely to cost the government money than it is to save it.”