Evaluating Nonresponse Bias in Survey Research Conducted in the Rural Midwest

Jaime J. Coon, Carena J. van Riper, Lois Wright Morton, James R. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An understanding of private landowner’s perceptions can guide decisions about conservation in rural landscapes. However, mailed surveys that evaluate landowner views are increasingly plagued by falling response rates and nonresponse bias. Using survey data from research conducted in the Midwestern United States in 2007 and 2017, we adapted a framework for testing nonresponse bias across demographics, attitudes, and land-use practices inferred from aerial imagery. We compared respondents and nonrespondents, early and late-respondents, low- and high-interest respondents, and our sample and published data. Across all comparisons, we found little consistent evidence of nonresponse bias, except a possible under-sampling of Amish landowners and conflicting results on gender. Many discrepancies were likely related to the sampling methodology. Because comparisons yielded conflicting results, we recommend that researchers engaged in survey research with rural communities use multiple methods to triangulate nonresponse bias to determine whether subgroups of rural populations are under-sampled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)968-986
Number of pages19
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2 2020


  • Mailback surveys
  • natural resource surveys
  • nonresponse bias
  • private land
  • response rates
  • rural communities
  • survey methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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