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Tuesday 14th July, 11:00 - 12:30 Room: O-101

Surveying precarious topics

Convenor Mr Simon Henke (GESIS - Leiniz Institute for the Social Sciences )

Session Details

Sometimes social surveys are interested in very precarious topics. This can be unrecorded crime, very personal topics (e.g. sex) or even opinions, attitudes or behavior which might be stigmatized within the host society. This session should talk about how it is possible to get the right answer or if not what methods are possible to evaluate the credibility of the given answers.

How well do randomized response techniques (RRT) work in social surveys or which more recent techniques are used (e.g. Unmatched Count Technique, Non-randomized response approach)? Another way to get the correct answer within personal interviews could be to force the interviewer to evaluate the credibility of the given answers. This credibility diagnostic is typically done by the police or within court actions, but this might also be a technique for social surveys on precarious topics. The session is especially interested in experience with these techniques, but also in all practical implementation to get information about precarious topics.

Paper Details

1. Determinants of the trustability of response techniques for accessing sensitive information
Dr Sebastian Sattler (University of Cologne)
Professor Peter Graeff (University of Kiel)

In an experiment among students (N=6,261), we investigated how respondents assess the anonymity of the crosswise technique, triangular technique, two versions of the randomized response technique, and direct responding as well as their potential for answering trustfully. Preliminary results show that respondents perceived the crosswise and triangular techniques as promoting honest responding compared to the direct response technique, while both randomized response techniques were perceived to impede honesty. Distrust regarding the investigator, fearing negative reactions, assuming a low reliability of scientific research, and high burden of participation decrease honesty perceptions. The perceived anonymity did not vary across treatments.

2. An improved comparative sensitive question techniques evaluation study: detecting false positives
Mr Marc Höglinger (ETH Zurich)
Professor Andreas Diekmann (ETH Zurich)

Comparative evaluation studies for sensitive question techniques relying on the „more is better“ assumption have a serious weakness. If false positives occur, i.e., if respondents incorrectly give the socially undesirable answer, conclusions drawn about a particular question techniques' validity might be wrong. Validation studies where individual self-reports can be compared to some external criterion are obviously superior but are very restricted regarding the items that can be validated. Therefore, we propose a refined comparative approach that includes testing the more-is-better assumption and, hence, allows to assess more reliably the validity of a particular sensitive question technique.

3. Estimating the correlation between sensible behaviours dealing with item missing data
Miss Alessandra Gaia (University of Milan-Bicocca)

Sexual behaviour is among the most sensitive topics in surveys. Literature shows that men who pay for sex are more likely to engage in risky behaviours than other males. I hypothesize that this correlation might be endogenous – at least partially – and driven by the unwillingness to reveal socially undesirable behaviours. Using Natsal-2 data, I utilize paradata to show how response patterns change depending on the privacy of the interview setting. Moreover, I take the previous research forward by re-estimating the correlation of paying for sex with risky behaviours after imputing item non-response in both sets of variables.

4. Studying sex work in Northern Ireland
Dr Dirk Schubotz (Queen's University Belfast)

In this presentation I will share our experiences of undertaking a mixed methods study on sex work in Northern Ireland. The study was undertaken in 2014 in order to inform policy making in Northern Ireland on a proposed law that would make it illegal in Northern Ireland to purchase sex. I will specifically talk about the methodological challenges of recruiting both sex workers and clients for an online survey. I will share some key results of the study, but will also allude to implications of the socio-religious context in Northern Ireland for a study of this kind.