Disclosing the purpose of a default selection increases the likelihood that survey respondents choose to receive future contacts

What was the challenge?

The Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) developed and administered a survey experiment to estimate how responsive decision makers are to information about program impact when assessing the value of a program. Encouraging survey respondents to participate in subsequent surveys may help generate novel insights about how a panel of policymakers make decisions across a range of subject matter domains and contexts. Default selections can encourage uptake of survey invitations, but respondents may not trust that a default selection is in their best interest or know why a choice has been selected by default.

What was the program change?

OES included a transparency statement to appear with a default selection of a response to a survey question. The question asked respondents if they would agree to receive future survey invitations, and the “Yes” response was pre-selected (by default) for all respondents. Next to the “Yes” response, the following transparency statement was included: “NOTE: We have preselected this option because we want to have enough respondents for future surveys to help build evidence to improve government services.”

How did the evaluation work?

Respondents who saw the final survey question were randomly assigned to see the question with either a transparency statement following the default selection or a standard default selection with no transparency statement. A total of 182 respondents saw the final survey question, with 89 assigned to see the transparency statement and 93 assigned to see the standard default. Uptake of the default selection (“Yes”) for the transparent default group was compared with the standard default group.

What was the impact?

Including the transparency statement increased the acceptance of the default (“Yes”) option by 14.7 percentage points. This difference was statistically significant (p = .001).

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