This paper compares the results of a survey of Alaskan Village public safety officers administered both through mail and in groups due to address concerns about the method of administration when surveying police officers.
Surveys are among the most commonly used research tools for understanding the police and their role in society. However, little attention has been given to the effects that the various methods of questionnaire administration can have upon the responses to a survey. To maximize response rates, a survey of Alaskan Village public safety officers (VPSOs), supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice was conducted using both group-administration methods and mail-administration methods. The paper begins by describing both the survey methods employed and the reasons for suspecting differences in the responses of the two groups. It continues with a discussion of the variables thought to be affected by the two different survey methods. It was expected that the responses given by VPSOs to questions regarding their views about their occupation would vary according to whether they completed the survey by mail or in a group setting. The results indicate that there are no discernable differences in the responses given in the two different methods of self-administered survey completion. The findings should serve to sensitize police researchers to the potential for bias resulting from the many different methods of survey administration that are available. References
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