Racing the Clock: Using Response Time as a Proxy for Attentiveness on Self-Administered Surveys

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Abstract

Internet-based surveys have expanded public opinion data collection at the expense of monitoring respondent attentiveness, potentially compromising data quality. Researchers now have to evaluate attentiveness ex-post. We propose a new proxy for attentiveness - response-time attentiveness clustering (RTAC) - that uses dimension reduction and an unsupervised clustering algorithm to leverage variation in response time between respondents and across questions. We advance the literature theoretically arguing that the existing dichotomous classification of respondents as fast or attentive is insufficient and neglects slow and inattentive respondents. We validate our theoretical classification and empirical strategy against commonly used proxies for survey attentiveness. In contrast to other methods for capturing attentiveness, RTAC allows researchers to collect attentiveness data unobtrusively without sacrificing space on the survey instrument.

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Read, B., Wolters, L., & Berinsky, A. J. (2021). Racing the Clock: Using Response Time as a Proxy for Attentiveness on Self-Administered Surveys. Political Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1017/pan.2021.32

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