Sensitive Questions in Online Surveys: Experimental Results for the Randomized Response Technique (RRT) and the Unmatched Count Technique (UCT)
Gaining valid answers to so-called sensitive questions is an age-old problem in survey research. Various techniques have been developed to guarantee anonymity and minimize the respondent's feelings of jeopardy. Two such techniques are the randomized response technique (RRT) and the unmatched count technique (UCT). In this study we evaluate the effectiveness of different implementations of the RRT (using a forced-response design) in a computer-assisted setting and also compare the use of the RRT to that of the UCT. The techniques are evaluated according to various quality criteria, such as the prevalence estimates they provide, the ease of their use, and respondent trust in the techniques. Our results indicate that the RRTs are problematic with respect to several domains, such as the limited trust they inspire and non-response, and that the RRT estimates are unreliable due to a strong false "no" bias, especially for the more sensitive questions. The UCT, however, performed well compared to the RRTs on all the evaluated measures. The UCT estimates also had more face validity than the RRT estimates. We conclude that the UCT is a promising alternative to RRT in self-administered surveys and that future research should be directed towards evaluating and improving the technique.