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Opinion Filters in Recreation Research: The Effect of Including “No Opinion” and “Not Notice” Response Categories in Questionnaires

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The effects of varying survey question wording and format have rarely been explored in the context of recreation or tourism. This study used a split-ballot experimental design to test the effects of offering (n = 135) or omitting (n = 132) “no opinion” or “not notice” options (filters) from response frameworks for questions in a study of river boaters dealing with the effect of conditions on experiences, support for management policies, and environmental and political attitudes. Rather than leaving items blank, respondents answered according to whichever categories were provided; this led to shifts of up to 56% between the offered and omitted forms in the proportion of respondents who indicated a “no opinion” or “not notice” (nonsubstantive) answer. The magnitude of effect ranged from an average of 5% for items about management to 25% for items about the effect of conditions on experiences. Less involved respondents exhibited larger effects. Nevertheless, among those giving substantive responses, mean responses did not differ between the offered versus omitted form, suggesting that “floaters” (those affected by the inclusion of an opinion filter) actually hold opinions similar to other respondents. Thus, although researchers should be careful in crafting visitor surveys, including “no opinion” options in questions, especially those pertaining to personal values and opinions about management policies, may not be critical in recreation and tourism studies.
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Keywords: Contex; Format effects; Key words: Survey research

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Resource Recreation and Tourism, University of Idaho, Moscow

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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  • The aim of Tourism Analysis is to promote a forum for practitioners and academicians in the fields of Leisure, Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality (LRTH). As a interdisciplinary journal, it is an appropriate outlet for articles, research notes, and computer software packages designed to be of interest, concern, and of applied value to its audience of professionals, scholars, and students of LRTH programs the world over.
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