NEWS2 July 2012

US research bodies form coalition against ban on federal survey incentives

Government North America

US— A coalition of US research associations and professional societies have signed an open letter to the White House calling on the Obama administration to defend the use of respondent incentives in federal surveys.

The letter comes in response to the Tipton amendment, which was recently passed in the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Act in the House of Representatives. The amendment could prohibit the Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies covered by the legislation from funding surveys in which money is included or provided for the benefit of survey participants.

In the letter to the White House the coalition wrote: “Although the Tipton amendment is seemingly motivated by one survey supported by one federal agency, we are concerned that its adoption, and possible inclusion in the final version of the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Act, could severely hinder survey and opinion research across all agencies under the legislation’s rubric and establish a dangerous precedent for all other federally conducted and supported research.

“Our members depend on these surveys to be statistically valid and representative of the populations they query,” the letter continued. “To achieve a representative sample of survey participants, we know many surveys must provide incentives that attract, retain, and compensate individuals for their time and effort. Incentives, such as cash, child care, and food, are imperative particularly when a survey involves economically disadvantaged individuals. Further, we understand that these incentives are provided with the full knowledge and consent of the survey’s funding agencies and the Office of Management and Budget.”

Signatories to the letter included the American Statistical Association, the Association of Academic Survey Research Organisations, the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics and the Marketing Research Association.