Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO-03) is once again attacking the use of respondent incentives in federal surveys. Following a similar provision he added to appropriations legislation passed by the House of Representatives this summer, Rep. Tipton recently introduced the "Survey Savings Accountability Act" (H.R. 6569).
The Act would provide that "an executive agency may not provide to an individual compensation that is-- (a) included with a survey or mailing to encourage the individual to return the survey or mailing; or (b) in exchange for a response to a survey or mailing."
The legislation defines "survey" as "any questionnaire designed to gather information from the public for use by an executive agency" and "executive agency" as effectively any federal government entity.
Unlike Rep. Tipton's original appropriations amendment, the Survey Savings Accountability Act should not prohibit the use of respondent incentives for surveys funded by federal government grants.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) usually turns down requests to use incentives, and incentives are forbidden for use in the government’s customer satisfaction research. Nonetheless, an estimated 25 percent of federal government surveys use respondent incentives.
Upon introducing the Survey Savings Accountability Act, Congressman Tipton assailed the validity of respondent incentives in survey research, commenting that, "enticing responders with cash to gather objective public opinion data raises questions about the quality of that data. Washington doesn’t need to pay people to get a sense of public opinion on an issue. When Americans are passionate about something there is abundantly free feedback."
MRA and several of our allies, like the American Statistical Association and the Population Association of America, have already met with OMB and Congressional staff about Rep. Tipton's appropriations amendment. We will be mobilizing further outreach in opposition to his new Survey Savings Accountability Act.