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Innovation in survey methodology - an online approach to survey data collection

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Analysis and Insight, Community Life, Office for Civil Society

commlifeThe Community Life survey is a Cabinet Office Official Statistic, tracking the latest trends on key policy areas such as volunteering, charitable giving, civic engagement and views on your neighbourhood. It supports the Minister for Civil Society's vision for a bigger, stronger society and ambition to build more resilient communities where people feel empowered and take greater control of the places they live in.

Currently, a face-to-face survey methodology is used. Whilst this approach is effective in providing robust and nationally representative data, face-to-face interviews are a resource intensive undertaking, and as we continue to drive efficiencies in the way we work, we need to develop innovative ideas that allow us to lower costs while maintaining high analytical standards.

In the light of this, Cabinet Office commissioned TNS-BMRB to conduct experimental testing of an online survey methodology to test the feasibility of an online approach and develop an effective, and cost efficient technique for collecting data this way.

Four phases of experimental work were conducted alongside the face-to-face survey.  This involved: testing the initial feasibility of an online approach; conducting a large scale review of the online approach; developing appropriate sampling methods; and disentangling whether differences observed in the data are likely to be linked to differences in the types of people who complete an online survey vs. face-to-face (sample), or the differences in the way people answer questions online compared to face to face (mode effects). Reports on the findings of this work can be found here.

Is the future of the survey online?


The Cabinet Office is now running a consultation to receive responses on the future of the Community Life Survey, specifically on the feasibility of adopting an online methodology. As the trusted source of data on areas such as volunteering and social action, it is key that we make an informed decision about the future of the survey, and all responses will feed into this decision. The consultation can be found here.

Please see our previous blog article for additional information on the initial online testing results.

If you have any further questions, or would like to speak to us more about the results of the online testing, please email


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