Response Rate Statistics for Online Surveys -What Numbers Should You be Aiming For?

In the survey researcher’s world there is little more important than keeping response rates high and drop outs low. In fact, over the life span of FluidSurvey University our articles have been obsessed with combatting low response rates to ensure survey success. Whether it be the preliminary steps of research design or the later stages of population sampling, there are tricks to increasing response rates.

In our recent article, “What’s the difference between Response Rate and Completion Rate?” we looked at the definition of each statistic and how low results in either can compromise the validity of your collected data. Today we’ll be revealing data about the average online survey’s response and completion rates, letting you know industry standards and what you should be aiming for.

What is the Average Online Survey Response Rate?

In the realm of survey research, the response rate represents the number of people who completed your survey divided by the sample size (or number of people you tried to contact). Of course, here at FluidSurveys, we are interested in online research and will therefore be calculating the average response rate for only online surveys. Our response rate will also exclude all forms of pop-up and embed surveys because these methods of online research do not have a set sample size. (TIP: You can learn your target sample size by clicking here to visit our Sample Size Calculator)

Using these parameters, we took the average response rate for all email surveys conducted on FluidSurveys. The result was a response rate of 42%. This is an amazing number, but not quite accurate. We can assume many of these surveys are conducted internally (surveying employees usually approaches the 90% response mark!) or are conducted on a very low sample size as is the case with many of our free user clients. So, in order to better represent general public survey response rates we had to change our sample group. After excluding free users, surveys that received less than 100 responses, and the outlying 5% we are left with a much more representative response rate:

Average Response Rate for Email Surveys = 24.8%

When surveying the general public, a response rate of 24.8% looks great when compared to the telephone surveying standard of around 8-12%. However, it is no secret that this number can stand to be increased.

The Two Pronged Defence Against Low Response Rates

If you are receiving response rates lower than 25%, don’t panic! You may have a difficult to reach sample group or your survey topic may be more sensitive than others. No matter how good your research plan is, your response rate will differ based on its topic and target audience. Inversely, even the best surveys can be tweaked to increase their response rate.

Improving a survey’s response rate should have two main focuses; increasing email clicks and reducing survey dropouts! Stemming from these two focuses are two equally important statistics. First is the number of views your survey receives divided by the total number of people contacted. This reflects your emails ability to get people to enter your survey. The second statistic is the number of people who completed your survey divided by the number of people who actually entered it. This stat measures your survey’s overall completion rate.

Looking at the same sample base we used for our average response rate, we found both the:

Average Percentage of Views per Email Contact = 31.6%
Average Completion Rate = 78.6%

So what can we learn from these two numbers. It should come as no surprise that getting someone to click your email and enter your survey will be the biggest difficulty to gathering responses. Beyond factors reliant on the survey topic and its creator, things like spam filters, dummy email accounts, and unreliable email browsers can make it difficult to receive a survey view rate beyond 50%. However, if you’re having a difficult time getting better than 30%, we have a few articles below that can help you make some changes for the better.

Much more astounding is the average completion rate. 78.6% depicts a dropout rate of around 21%! These are people who willingly entered your survey and decided to leave before reaching the finish. If you find your completion rate lower than 80%, it is time to reevaluate your survey and make some changes. Below we have several FluidSurveys University articles that will help you pump up this number.

Give Your Response Rate a Power Boost!

So now that you have these response rate statistics, you know where your survey stands with others. Now it’s time to improve across the board! A good place to start is reading our articles on lowering drop outs and increasing response rates. If you haven’t already, the most essential article to begin with is our last FluidSurveys University post “What is the Difference between a Response Rate and a Completion Rate?” This goes in depth on the nature of these statistics and what they mean for your survey data. Below are some suggested posts for tips on increasing both email clicks and completion rates.

Articles on Increasing Email Clicks:

Articles on Increasing Completion Rates:

Ready to implement a survey but don’t have a FluidSurveys account yet? Get into contact with us or visit our pricing page, you’ll be gathering responses in no time!

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  • Matt says:

    This article should be required reading for people who are new to conducting online surveys! “Average Response Rate for Email Surveys = 24.8%”. Was this calculated by averaging the response rate for all surveys in your pool, or by dividing the total number of responses in the pool by the total number contacted? It seems kind of high compared other studies I’ve read, which put the average between 10-15%, and my own experience with samples of large populations.

    • RickPenwarden says:

      Hi Matt!
      We calculated our response rate by taking all the email list surveys sent using our software and averaging the percentage of people on the email list who completed the survey. We also added in the parameters of removing the free users, including surveys that have a contact list of at least 100 people and removing the outlying 5%. This is how we received a response rate average of 24.8%.
      That being said it is not surprising that other studies have received lower averages, especially when looking at general public surveys, where respondents are less invested in a survey’s success. All surveys will have different response rates based on the nature of the information they are collecting and the group of people they are surveying. The best thing to do is focus on improving your response rates through tightening up your research methods.
      Thanks fore your insights, Matt!

  • RickPenwarden says:

    Hi Kim,

    I don’t know the specifics about your survey, but since the survey category is employee feedback you should be able to get a relatively high response rate. 30-50% is already on the high side when it comes to normal surveys though. Setting a goal for 90% without making the survey a required part of employment (like a year end review survey) is an incredibly hard response rate to reach.
    Think about your sample size and your respondents’ incentive. The larger the sample size, the more likely it will fall in the 30-50% range. Which isn’t necessarily bad as the larger the sample size the lower the required response rate to meet your confidence level needs.
    If there is no incentive, your employees will have little reason to invest there time in the survey other than for the importance of the research itself. This is the reason an employee feedback survey will have a somewhat higher response rate on average. Employees have an invest interest in their workplace.
    If your survey isn’t a required part of employment for your respondents and you cannot provide a substantial incentive, create a lower response rate goal (say 60%). Then try to meet that goal through implementing the better email and survey writing best practices. The articles linked at the end of this post are a great starting point to learning these best practices.
    Here’s one tip. Try sending your survey invites at times throughout the day and week that are least busy for your employees. A respondent is most likely to participate if they have time the moment they open the email. If they are busy when they open the email, they will set it aside for later and most often forget about it.

    Hope this helps,


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