Comparing participation motives of professional and non-professional respondents

Henning Silber, Sven Stadtmüller, Alexandru Cernat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In times of declining response rates and over-surveying, improving our understanding of why people participate in surveys is more important than ever. Previous research showed that online panel participants have intrinsic (e.g., topic interest, altruism) and extrinsic (e.g., incentives) participation reasons. Our study expands this research by implementing an experiment using two common forms of survey measurement: ranking and rating. The experiment was fielded in a professional respondents’ sample from a German online panel (n = 407) and in an address-based sample (mail and online) of German non-professional respondents (n = 1,137). Besides extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, the experiment included various study design features (i.e., mode, length, data security) and the mood during the time of contact as possible reasons for participation. The results confirm previous findings regarding the motivations of online panelists but also show important differences between professional and non-professional respondents. Specifically, the main participation reasons of professionals are topic interest (intrinsic) and incentives (extrinsic), while non-professionals are primarily motivated by intrinsic reasons (topic interest and purpose of study). This notion is also supported by the Latent Class Analyses, which showed that three of the four classes for professional respondents had a high probability of naming incentives as one of their main reasons for survey participation, whereas none of the four non-professional clusters rated incentives highly. The differences between the two samples highlight that professional panel members have different motivation structures than participants in general population surveys. This may undermine generalizability, but it also provides opportunities for targeted recruitment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational journal of market research
Early online date31 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2023


  • experiment
  • motivation
  • professional respondents
  • ranking vs. rating
  • survey participation


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