Full text: Wehner, Sigrid: Exploring trends and patterns of nonresponse

careful attempts to minimise all the other error influences - structural explanations of social 
phenomena appeared to be relative robust against nonresponse. (At least this can be 
concluded by the validation for nonresponse in the sense of converted soft refusals and finally 
reached non-contacts.) 
Finally, there are two general results which the analysis of the nonresponse study 
made evident. 
Firstly, the analysis revealed that the profile of the nonrespondents is cohort-specific. 
This result cannot be explained as a mere influence of age. It emphasises instead the 
importance of the individual's specific situation in the life course. The historical and political 
situation in which a survey occurs is experienced differently in different positions of life. As a 
consequence of that, the decision to participate in a survey or to refuse depends on conditions 
related to typical patterns in the life course. It is important to keep this in mind when one 
plans a survey and works on how to contact and to convince people. 
Secondly, the hard-core refusals remain the "dark-chapter" persons. It could be 
suspected, however, that they tend to be those people who experienced the change in the 
society as a disadvantage concerning their own life. Given the political background of the 
transformation in East Germany, this means that not the underqualified persons, but the 
former elites prefer to refuse. 
The additional effort on the fieldwork was successful for the hard-to-contact cases. 
Finally, several more cases could be realised. Naturally a survey, which is based on random 
sampling and which was carefully performed, cannot be remarkably improved by adding a 
few more cases. The practical data analyst, however, sometimes wants to have available some 
more cases. This is the case, particularly, when one inspects detailed subgroups with almost 
empty cells. From this practical point of view, the nonresponse study can be used to enrich the 
data pool. The analysis of the refusing 1930 cohort, however, showed that the study 
succeeded in getting converted soft refusals who refused because of convenience and not 
because of their convictions. As multidimensional structural explanations are not changed 
essentially, it can be doubted whether a survey should run after each of these target persons. 
There are always limitations concerning time and financial budget. The substantial task is to 
convince persons. This implies for empirical research under democratic conditions, that the 
respondent must be taken seriously and must get the opportunity to refuse. The hope is that it 
is just the existence of this opportunity which might convert and convince sampled target 

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