• Presentation

Surveying International Travelers: An Argument for Intercept Interviewing


Ellis, C. S., Evans, B., Santiago, G. M., & Reed, L. M. (2007, May). Surveying International Travelers: An Argument for Intercept Interviewing. Presented at American Association for Public Opinion Research Conference, Anaheim, CA.


The method of collecting data via intercept surveys often is associated with low response rates, imprecise sampling methods, and high potential for nonresponse bias in the data. Indeed, a quick review of intercept survey outcomes reveals little of sampling methods intended to capture a cross-section of the population, response rates greater than 50%, or methods that are applicable across all demographics. However, high quality data can be obtained across a randomly selected population using intercept interviewing, given proper design and implementation. Further, it may actually be the method of choice when attempting to evaluate public-impact programs or international issues with a highly mobile, multi-cultural, and/or difficult to trace study population.For example, with increased attention on our nation’s borders and security, collecting data from international travelers regarding their views of increasingly stringent security measures is of great importance to the U.S. Government and related industries (e.g., tourism). One such survey, which presents an argument for the viability of intercept interviewing from data quality and cost perspectives, is the Welcome to the U.S. survey. Funded by Department of Homeland Security’s Private Sector Office (DHS-PSO), the Welcome Survey is a baseline data collection effort aimed to capture information pertaining to the experiences of visitors to the U.S. who have just been processed by CBP officers at national ports of entry (POEs).This paper, while acknowledging the challenges and constraints of intercept surveying, presents methods by which researchers can obtain high quality data from an especially dispersed and mobile population across the country. Specifically, we identify causative factors – including materials, interviewer selection and training, and culturally-sensitive recruiting approaches – that contribute to response rates in excess of 85% in the nationally implemented Welcome to the U.S. Survey. The paper compares and contrasts these factors against others typical of intercept surveys and their outcomes.