This paper aims to explore the likelihood that face-to-face (FTF) interviewing will continue to be the “gold standard” survey interviewing method, to which all other modes are compared, in an era in which daily communicative habits for many now involve selecting among many alternative modes.
After outlining what is known about the purported benefits and drawbacks of FTF interviewing, the paper reviews recent findings that raise questions about whether FTF interviewing still produces the highest rates of participation, best data quality and greatest respondent satisfaction.
Results of several studies suggest that at least for some respondents, asynchronous interviewing modes that reduce the interviewer’s social presence and allow respondents to participate while they are mobile or multitasking (in particular, text messaging) may well lead to higher quality data and greater respondent satisfaction.
To the extent that these findings generalize, the implication is that FTF interviewing will continue to be needed for at least some respondents, but multiple trends suggest that it is likely to be one mode among many, and that the assumption that it is always needed or that it always leads to the highest quality data no longer holds.
Exploring when and how FTF interviewing will continue to be needed is particularly important given FTF’s financial and social costs, in an era of budgetary challenges and new questioning about which data sources are essential and lead to trustworthy information.
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