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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Report on Mobile Technologies for Conducting and Augmenting Surveys

AAPOR Releases Report on Mobile Technologies for Conducting and Augmenting Surveys

-- Guidelines for researchers conducting surveys via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) --
-- New methods offer opportunities but also some additional -as well as persistent- challenges --

DEERFIELD, IL, May 12, 2014 -- The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) announces the release of an important report on the use of mobile technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, for the collection of survey data. The report highlights the new forms of information available from these devices, such as location, visuals, and connected device data, for use in survey research. The report offers an initial set of guidelines and considerations for researchers and highlights both the opportunities as well as new challenges posed by the uses of these technologies.

The proliferation of new technologies, such as mobile devices and social media platforms, are changing the societal landscape across which public opinion researchers operate. The ways people access and share information about opinions, attitudes, and behaviors have gone through perhaps a greater transformation in the last decade than in any previous point in the history of opinion data gathering and this trend appears likely to continue. 

The emergence of mobile devices -- with a host of integrated features including voice, photography, video, text, email, GPS, apps, and others -- has opened the door to a new generation of measurement tools for those who study public opinion, attitudes and behaviors as well as other sociological phenomena.

To help the industry understand some of the opportunities and challenges in this new area of research, AAPOR’s Emerging Technologies Task Force report, available at www.aapor.org, highlights the ways these technologies are used to conduct surveys as well as the features on mobile devices that can be used to augment or in some cases replace more traditional survey approaches, such as GPS, scanning, visual capture, connected devices, and mobile apps. The report touches on the methodological, legal and privacy considerations that accompany the use of these devices for research.

Although it is too early to publish definitive standards or “best practices” for the conduct of surveys via mobile devices, the report offers initial guidance to practitioners based on the research available to date, including:

•  Understanding that ownership and comfort in use of various mobile devices varies greatly  across the general population, so matching the mobile tool for the task is essential;
•  Recognizing that many people now access online content via their mobile device, hence  researchers who are conducting online surveys are also, by default, conducting mobile web  surveys.
•  Mobile is a very different platform than other more traditional survey modes, even  computer-based survey; therefore, researchers needs to understand the new “rules” for  how people interact with mobile devices and the implications this has for conducting  surveys on mobile devices.

Researchers cannot delve into the world of mobile technologies without an understanding of some of the privacy implications these technologies may have for both respondents and the researchers themselves. While public behaviors and attitudes about data privacy may be complex and at times contradictory, the path for researchers is clear: we need to ensure the protection of our respondents’ private data through every phase of our studies -- and beyond.

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The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) is a professional organization dedicated to advancing the science and practice of survey and opinion research to give people a voice in the decisions that affect their daily lives.

We strive to:

• Educate policy makers, the media and the public at large to help them make better use of surveys and survey findings;
• Educate practitioners on new developments affecting our field;
• Advocate the highest standards of ethical conduct for survey and opinion research;
• Encourage and disseminate research and innovations that improve our methods;
• Encourage and disseminate systematic analyses of public opinion on the major issues of the day;
• Promote best practices in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting survey data;
• Provide opportunities for our members to exchange views and promote the values of our organization; and,
• Act as an advocate for survey and opinion research and its practitioners.