Voluntary Response Sample: Definition, Examples & Uses

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Voluntary Response Sample
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What is a Voluntary Response Sample?

A voluntary response sample can be defined as a sample made up of participants who have voluntarily chosen to participate as a part of the sample group.

Participants in a voluntary response sample usually choose to respond to surveys because they have a strong opinion on the subject of the survey. This is why voluntary response samples tend to give rise to significantly biased results, as most of those who participate will have a strong opinion about a topic in either direction. Another reason why people participate is due to the convenience of joining the survey. 

Voluntary response sampling is considered a type of non-probability sampling technique because participants are self-chosen, and not selected by the researcher on a random basis.

Most of the researchers maintain relationships with such panelists by training and rewarding them for every survey complete using a survey panel manager with a survey rewards point system integration. Create survey reward points system to ensure high survey response rates

Voluntary Response Sample Example

An example of a voluntary response sample is when TV show hosts of competitions, such as the American Idol, ask their viewers to send in their responses for who they think should win the competition. Only viewers who have strong opinions on who should win will send in their votes. Viewers who are indifferent toward the show and its competitors will not send in their votes.

Uses of Voluntary Response Sampling

Voluntary response sampling is not advantageous or applicable in most studies as it is highly susceptible to bias and yields unreliable results. Instead, other sampling techniques should be used such as simple random sampling, stratified random sampling, or even purposive sampling.

Because of its disadvantages, voluntary response sampling is not suited to studies where the aim is to create unbiased results. However, there are some cases where a voluntary response sample can be useful. For instance, it can be used by the entertainment industry by talk show hosts or radio hosts. When people watch talk shows or listen to the radio, they want to hear strong and unique opinions. In such cases voluntary response sampling is apt as respondents that do give their opinion, will likely have a really strong stance on the subject.

Some organizations employ the use of voluntary response sampling in promotional or marketing strategies to advertise their products. They can use it to influence existing customers to start advocating for the brand. This improves the organization’s brand image which will in turn have positive effects on sales, revenues, and profits.


Characteristics of Voluntary Response Sample

There are four main characteristics of a voluntary response sample:

Easy to gather data:

It is easy to find respondents for a voluntary response sample survey as individuals already have high motivation to respond to the subject of the study, eliminating the need for the researcher to find respondents.

Biased responses:

As members in a voluntary response sample are self-selected volunteers, they tend to have a stance on the topic that falls in either extreme. This gives rise to biased and unreliable results.

Errors in data quality:

Highly biased responses will lead to an extremely low quality of data collected. Calculate your margin of error using margin of error calculator.

Lack of coverage:

A lack of coverage occurs when members of a population are not appropriately represented in the sample. Taking the example discussed above, only viewers of the TV show will give in their votes. People who do not follow the show or have a neutral opinion on the performances will not participate in the survey and will not send in their votes.

Advantages of Voluntary Response Sample

  1. Inexpensive to conduct.
  2. Requires little effort on the part of the researcher.
  3. Easily feasible as volunteers can be obtained in a fast and inexpensive manner.

Disadvantages of Voluntary Response Sample

  1. The researcher doesn’t have control over the composition of a sample.
  2. Results are highly susceptible to bias as most respondents who volunteer have strong opinions on the subject.

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How to improve your Voluntary Response Sample for your survey research?

Respondents in a voluntary response sample tend to have a strong stance on the topic which inevitably causes a bias. In this form of sampling, bias is almost unavoidable, but the following measures can be taken to avoid as much bias as possible.

  1. Avoid difficult concepts: Avoid concepts that respondents may have trouble understanding.
  2. Break down difficult concepts if they are used: If complicated concepts need to be used, break them down and simplify them for the respondent.
  3. Do not influence the answers: Ensure the survey does not influence the respondent’s answer in any way. Voluntary response samples already tend to give rise to biased results so it is important to ensure more bias is not created.
  4. Use short and clear questions: Long and/or complicated questions may cause a respondent to get bored or lose focus while answering. Questions should be short and clearly understandable.
  5. Provide exhaustive answer options: The questions, as well as the answers, must be kept simple. Each answer should be mutually exhaustive so as to not create confusion for the respondent.
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