Michael Weinhardt, DIW Berlin
In household panel surveys, interviewers' first task is to secure respondents' cooperation, i.e. initial response and response over time. A second task is to collect and record precise information on the respondents. Previous studies have shown that the 'Big-Five' personality trait conscientiousness is significantly related to general indicators of job performance. In this paper we look at whether this holds for survey interviewers also. The data used to investigate this problem is unique in the sense that it did not have to rely on data provided by fieldwork agencies, but information on interviewers that was collected during a separate study. In December 2006, a survey of all current interviewers of the German Socio-economic Panel Study (SOEP) was conducted and 546 interviewers responded to a 10-page paper questionnaire. This included a short version of the Big Five Inventory, a scale to assess the 'Big Five' personality traits including conscientiousness. Also in 2006, a refreshment sample for the SOEP was drawn and respondents interviewed for the first time, giving the opportunity to study initial unit response. With this data, we examined the effects of interviewers' conscientiousness on initial response, household attrition and item nonresponse by linking survey data from the interviewers with household and individual level information on respondents. Using a multilevel regression framework, we find that interviewer conscientiousness is not related to initial response in 2006, but is significantly related to overall item nonresponse in 2006 and to household attrition in 2007. Results will be discussed in terms of their usefulness for the recruitment and training of interviewers, highlighting the importance of conscientiousness in an interviewer's approach to work.