Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Foot-in-the-door or door-in-the-face? A survey experiment on multiple requests for consent to data linkage

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Day:Tue 2 Jul
  • Sandra Walzenbach, University of Essex

In this study we examine how best to ask survey respondents for consent to multiple data linkages within one interview. The existing literature has mainly focused on how best to ask a single consent question. Using an online access panel, we collected data from over 5,500 respondents in Great Britain to shed light on how people process linkage requests and which question features help them to undergo an informed decision. 3,000 of them were asked for multiple consents to link their survey responses with data held by five government organisations (HMRC, DWP, BEIS, DfE, NHS). Respondents were randomly allocated to three different formats: presenting each consent question on a separate page, and two versions that presented all consents on one page. These allocations were crossed with forward and backward order of the requests. In addition, we collected information about background characteristics, the understanding of the data linkage process, trust in the organisations involved, and sensitivity of the data they hold. We use these data to examine how the order and format of consent requests affect consent rates (overall and for each domain individually), understanding of the data linkage request, and time required to answer the consent questions. The results show that the order affects both aggregate and individual consent rates, while the format has less effect. The patterns of consent across the five domains are consistent with ‘foot in the door’ effects: starting with a domain that typically gets higher consent rates increases consent for the subsequent questions.