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OPINION10 September 2009

Some Korean insights into MR

Technology

More highlights from day two of the Internet Survey International Workshop in Korea, hosted by Statistics Korea, including a look at MR.

More insights into market and social research in Korea emerged in day two of the Internet Survey International Workshop, hosted by Statistics Korea.

South Korea is one of the most technically advanced nations in the world, with a young and growing population. Virtually 100% of those aged under 40 are Internet users and across the board, South Korea ranks eighth globally for Internet penetration: higher than both the USA and the UK. Using Internet panels is therefore very appealing for national statisticians and social researchers – if only ways could be found to overcome coverage and non-response bias.

Sunghill Lee (UCLA) proposed an advance on Harris Interactive style of propensity weighting, to nudge panels towards national representativeness by supplementing propensity weights with a stage of calibration against a reference dataset which nationally representative, or from a true random probabilty sample. Her model was capable of halving the observed discrepency, but at a cost, as the sample variability tended to increase.

A time for everything

Prof. Cho Sung Kyum (Chungnam National University, Korea) had noticed others’ attempts to weight their panels in the direction national representivity tended to use demographic data, including some measures that were hard to calibrate, such as occupation. There is often frustration in being able to get hold of robust reference data. Prof. Cho had noticed that many national statistics offices around the world conduct a Time Use study among the general population. These meet most criteria for good reference data – large, robust, random probability samples that are representative of the population, and they are highly associated with lifestyle. They also cover Internet-specific information, as one use of time which is tracked in these studies, in some detail.

In his test online surveys, he asked respondents some time characteristics that could be cross-matched, such as the typical time home from work, typical bedtime and time spent online. Matching by six measures, his model provided near perfect adjustments for questions relating to leisure, education or media consumption; but it offered no improvement for income or work-related questions. However, his work is ongoing, and he hopes to identify other variables that could narrow the gap in future.

Online on a slow burn

In MR, online research has only a ten per cent share in Korea, an astonishingly low figure given the very high Internet penetration in Korea, stated Choi In Su, CEO of Embrain, an Asian panel provider. Face-to-face still tends to dominate, as telephone is not particularly useful either with less than 70% of Koreans having a fixed phone line. However, he predicted quite rapid change, expecting the share to reach 20% or more.

The reluctance among MR firms also stems from the same concerns that the statisticians had been airing – coverage and non-response error, and low quality in particiation. Mr Choi outlined a number of unusual characteristics of the Embrain panels designed to combat these limitations – which include a combination of online and offline recruitment, rigorous verification of new recruits against registers or other trusted sources, a range of fraud detection measures, and good conduct training for panel members. A key measure of success is the consistent 60% response rate from survey invitations.

It felt as if the social statisticians were ahead of the game. Kim Ui Young from the Social Surveys division of Statistics Korea spoke of two successful online introductions of large-scale regular surveys. A key driver had been to reduce measurement error and respondent burden, and one diary study of household economic activity provided a good example of this. In fact, Kostat had gone as far as to work with online banking portals to allow respondents to access their bank statements securely, and then import specific transactions directly into the online survey, which a lot of respondents found much easier to do.

In my concluding blog entry, tomorrow, I will cover the highlights from international case studies and new research on research, which were also presented today.

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