Quota Sampling Effectively -How to get a Representative Sample for Your Online Surveys

Survey research can be planned meticulously, designed with questionnaires that are flawless, and have the best statisticians manipulating the resulting data, but still come out with inaccurate findings that lead a company or organization in the wrong direction. What gives? Unfortunately, if a sample group doesn’t properly match a project’s target audience or population, it is impossible to end with the correct results.
For this reason, FluidSurveys University likes to emphasize the importance of proper data collection and effective sampling. In previous articles we have looked at how researcher bias can lead to bad survey responses through ‘Population Definition Error’ and ‘Sampling Frame Error’. We’ve also looked at the effects of nonresponse error and how it may lead to underrepresented demographics in your survey results. Though these sources of bias can be combatted through different research techniques, there is also a way to use quotas to ensure your survey resembles your population more closely.

How to Use Quota Sampling

Quota sampling is a technique used to monitor the number of respondents that are allowed to complete a survey based on particular traits, like age, gender, race, and location. Why bother? Well, people consisting of one descriptive group (like 18-24 year old, women from New Brunswick) may share common beliefs, behaviours and attitudes. Neglecting to give each group the same representation in a survey that they have in the population of study will almost certainly bias your results.
It is important to remember that quota sampling should only be carried out when a researcher does not have access to the entire population. In online survey speak this means if you are carrying out a email survey in which 100% of your target audience is sent an invitation, quota sampling is not for you. Quotas are most useful when your respondents come to you randomly, like through pop-ups, embedded surveys, or in real-time like kiosk or in-person tablet surveys. In these cases, the researcher doesn’t contact every potential respondent, making it important to ensure there is proper representation through quotas.

Quota Sampling with Different Target Audience

Different target audiences provide various challenges for finding the correct quota numbers. Regardless of the population specifics, however, the key to proper quota sampling is to make certain your quota numbers reflect the percentages of traits that are present in your survey’s population. Let’s take a look at some of the audiences that you could be using quota sampling on:

  1. General Population: Most countries have their demographical information freely available to the public. When doing a general population survey you can usually find all the percentages you need through a country’s census survey statistics and create your quotas accordingly.
    For example, Census Canada shows that Canada has an almost perfect split between men and women in its population. This means that a representative sample of Canadian citizens should be 50% male and 50% female. Once we have these percentages, it’s time to set your quotas. Take your calculated sample size and divide it into groups based on the quota. If your sample were comprised of 300 people, you would know that it should have 150 male responses and 150 female responses.
  2. Special Groups: Sometimes your sample group won’t reflect the general population. Take for example a survey on federal election voters. We know that older demographics have a higher turnout rate at the voting polls than young adults, so we also know the quota numbers for age groups won’t be the same for our voter based survey as to a general population survey. Instead of using a census survey, try researching the demographic makeup of voters in the past election. This will give you a good base for how to divide your sample group.
  3. Customer Feedback: Quotas should also be used when businesses have high or low proportions of certain demographics in there customer base. If we look at the video game industry, we have a business sector with an abundance of consumers that are young males and extremely little amounts of senior women. Any surveys in this industry should take in account this customer make up and plan their sample group accordingly. Usually businesses will gain the statistical percentages they need for proper quotas through big data, adding necessary information on sign up pages, or demographical research.

How to Set Up Your Quotas on FluidSurveys

So you did your preliminary research and have all your quota numbers in order. The next step is to set up your quotas on your FluidSurveys questionnaire. Check out this video to learn how:

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