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Texts May Beat Phone Calls for Survey Honest Answers

A study of 600 iPhone users found that people are more likely to provide honest and accurate information via text messages than voice interviews. Larry Greenemeier reports

Someone doing a survey calls and asks: "How many times a week would you say you exercise?" What do you tell them? And would it be different if the survey was being done via text rather than telephone?

Maybe. Because people are more likely to provide honest and accurate information via text messages than voice interviews. So finds a study reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. [Michael F. Schober et al., "Disclosure and Quality of Answers in Text and Voice Interviews on iPhones"]

The researchers thought most people would rather share sensitive or controversial information over the phone, a much more familiar technology. Plus, texting creates a possibly-off-putting permanent, stored record of questions and answers.

The researchers are still trying to interpret the results. One thought is that texting, as opposed to talking, can be done at the participant’s leisure and more privately, which could lead to more truthfulness.

The research team reached out to only 600 iPhone users. So the work needs to be extended. But if it’s verified, it could mean that the best way to poll the public would be to ditch the dinner time phone call in favor of a tea time text.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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