Study title
Satisficing and Language Proficiency
Ref study 11245
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Langue
  • Minorités
  • Enquête
  • Satisficing
  • Complexité des questions
  • Qualité des données
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
Especially in multicultural diverse populations, unit nonresponse can be attributed in
part to language barriers, if no proxies are available or willing to answer on behalf of
people, and if there is no translated version of the survey into the native language of
the potential respondent. In such cases, sampled individuals may simply opt out of the

However, little is known about the data collected from sampled individuals who are not
native speakers of the survey language and who decide to participate in surveys.
Specifically, there is little in the literature addressing the data quality of survey
respondents who may not be fully proficient in the language of survey administration.
This project examines the question of whether the data of nonnative speakers may be
compromised to some extent due to problems of comprehension of survey questions,
especially questions that are more complicated both in terms of content and form.

Operationalising data quality within the terms of Krosnick's satisficing theory, we
compared native and nonnative speaking groups in two large-scale Swiss national
surveys with respect to a set of dependent measures, including item nonresponse,
extreme responding on scales, recency effects, and straightlining. The characteristics
of the selected surveys and the questions within them allowed us to distinguish
possible effects of language comprehension from other effects on data quality, such as
age and level of education, and effects of motivation.
Our results indicate that foreigners from neighbouring countries that speak one of the
three Swiss national languages (i.e., from Germany, Austria, France, and Italy) tended
to produce data on the same level of quality as the Swiss nationals. On the other hand,
there was significantly poorer data quality for the different dependent measures for
foreign populations in Switzerland that are not native speakers of the available survey
languages (German, French, Italian). However, in addition to language proficiency, the
poorer quality may be attributable in part to respondent motivation.
Methods (description)
Secondary analysis of data from the Swiss household panel (2004) and the Swiss Labour Force Survey (2008). We examined levels of item non-response and other measures of satisficing across several hundred survey variables, comparing Swiss respondents with respondents from neighboring countries where German, French, and Italian are spoken, and with respondents from other countries where the three Swiss national languages are not used. To examine the effects of question complexity on responding, we coded survey question for different aspects of complexity, such as word length, number of clauses, question type (i.e., factual, demographic, opinion), need for retrieval in memory, and need for calculation. Questions were also coded for relevance with respect to non-national populations, level of sensitivity, and placement within the survey interview. Regression models factored in national status of respondents, others demographic variables like education, sex, and age, and question complexity.
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 25.04.2013
Date modified 25.04.2013
Start - End date 01.02.2011 - 01.10.2012