7th Biennial ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference

Darren Pennay

Darren has worked in social research and survey methodology since 1984 and is the Founder and past CEO of the Social Research Centre, 2000-2019. From 2010 to 2015 Darren played a leading role in the introduction of dual-frame telephone surveys to Australia and he was also the driving force behind the establishment of Australia's first probability-based online panel – Life in Australia™ in 2016. Darren is a Research Society Fellow. In 2014 he was awarded the Research Industry Council of Australia’s Research Effectiveness Award for Innovation and Methodology. In 2019 Darren was awarded the inaugural AMSRO Jayne Van Souwe Research Industry Leadership Award.


The state of telephone surveys in 2020

We present an overview of the state of the telephone survey landscape in Australia in 2020. Telephone surveys have been challenged on myriad fronts, with increases in scam calls and telemarketing, the rise of call blocking/spam flagging software, rising cord-cutting and the ongoing roll-out of the NBN and its concomitant impact on landline usage. We document the falls in contact rates, cooperation rates and response rates and the rise in refusal rates on multiple time-series of Australian telephone surveys, as well as the increased level of effort for even these relatively meagre returns.

Telephone coverage of the Australian population

We provide an overview of the correlates of telephone use in Australia and their implications for telephone surveys using data from the National Health Survey (NHS) 2017-18. The NHS is an in-person survey of Australian households (excluding very remote areas) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It includes questions on landline and mobile status. These questions provide insight into the correlates of telephone usage. The presentation examines age, state, Indigenous status, migrant status, education, area-level socio-economic status, housing tenure, smoking status and alcohol use. As is well known, age is strongly associated with telephone usage. By 2017-18, mobile coverage was sufficiently high that mobile-only was sufficient for general population surveys unless estimates of the age 75+ cohort were required. We identify low landline coverage in the Northern Territory and among Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders, recent migrants, renters, current smoker and people at risk from alcohol consumption. The presentation will also review the likely impacts of the continuing shift to mobile phones identified in the ACMA Communications Report.