7th Biennial ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference

Benjamin Phillips

Ben Phillips is a survey researcher and methodologist with 18 years of experience in academic and private sector positions working with government and non-profit clients. He is Chief Survey Methodologist at the Social Research Centre, where he applies best practices and develop new methods to reduce survey errors and costs. Prior to joining the Social Research Centre, he was a Senior Associate/Scientist at Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA, USA and previously worked for Abt SRBI and Brandeis University, both in the U.S.


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.

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.