Assessing Survey Satisficing

The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Responding on Data Quality
Christine Vriesema
University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire
Hunter Gehlbach
Johns Hopkins University


Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive local policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using questionnaires for data-based decision making. To better understand student satisficing—the practice of suboptimal responding on surveys—and its impact on data quality, this article examines its pervasiveness and impact on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 elementary and secondary students. Findings indicated that despite the prevalence of satisficing, its impact on data quality appeared more modest than anticipated. The article concludes by outlining an accessible approach for defining and calculating satisficing for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

This article was originally published in Educational Researcher by the American Educational Research Association and SAGE Publications.



Suggested citationVriesema, C., & Gehlbach, H. (2021, August). Assessing survey satisficing: The impact of unmotivated questionnaire responding on data quality [Article]. Policy Analysis for California Education.