The effects of cash, electronic, and paper gift certificates as respondent incentives for a web-based survey of technologically sophisticated respondents

Jeremy P. Birnholtz, Daniel B. Horn, Thomas A. Finholt, Sung Joo Bae

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

53 Citations (Scopus)


An experiment was conducted to determine the effectiveness of three invitation and incentive combinations in a web-based survey. A stratified convenience sample of 434 researchers who were target users of a collaboratory for earthquake engineering was randomly divided into three experimental conditions: (a) a $5 bill sent with the survey instructions via first class mail, (b) a $5 gift certificate code to sent with the survey instructions via first-class mail, or (c) a $5 gift certificate code to sent with the survey instructions via e-mail. Overall response was 43%. Results show that $5 bills led to significantly higher response rates than either gift certificate condition (57% for cash vs. 36% for the two gift certificate conditions, χ 2(1) = 93, p <.01). This suggests that cash is a superior incentive for an online survey, even with technologically sophisticated respondents. This may be due to the perceived limitations, delayed payoff, or reduced visibility of online gift certificates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-362
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science Computer Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Sep 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Law

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