Social Science Computer Review

Volume 30, No.3

Fall, 2012



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Volume 30, No.3:


The ties that bind: Network overlap among independent congregations / Buster G. Smith, Christopher P. Scheitle, & Christopher D. Bader

                Abstract:  While the availability of internet data on religious organizations has increased exponentially the use of such resources remains limited.  We make use of a new research method involving weblink analysis to study non-denominational churches which are difficult to examine using conventional research techniques.  One reason for this is the perception that independent churches lack the coherency of denominational populations, which creates methodological and theoretical challenges.  We explore this assumption by examining the social and symbolic networks of a sample of independent congregations.  Using the outgoing links from congregational websites, we find that there is more overlap than one might expect.  This simultaneously enhances our understanding of this particular religious group as well as demonstrating the usefulness of such a research methodology.


 Acceptance by the public of the virtual delivery of public services: The effect of affect / Ruud Hoefnagel, Leon Oerlemans, & John Goedee

                Abstract: Little is known about the determinants of acceptance by the general public of virtual delivery of governmental services. We conduct an empirical study of the factors that influence the willingness of individuals to consent to a para-authentic virtual experience with a public sector employee as part of the delivery of a public service. Our study is based on the theory of social presence and on the Unified Theory for the Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). We test our hypotheses using 224 questionnaires completed by persons who have filed a police report using synchronous video-mediated communication (VMC). Our multiple regression analysis shows that four variables are likely to predict willingness to use virtual interaction as a part of the delivery of a public service: performance expectations, social presence, social influence and anxiety. Two findings were especially interesting. Firstly, affective predictors, as opposed to cognitive predictors, were found to be of increasing importance for the acceptance by the public of virtual service delivery. Secondly, social presence emerged as the strongest affective predictor. This study’s empirical findings support our a-priori assumption that affective predictors, as opposed to cognitive predictors, are relatively more important in predicting the intention to use virtual technologies, when contrasted with conventional technologies.


eParticipation policies and initiatives in European Union institutions / Efpraxia Dalakiouridou, Simon Smith, Efthimios Tambouris &  Konstantinos Tarabanis

Abstract:  Electronic Participation (eParticipation) is increasingly employed by governments worldwide to broaden and deepen political participation. This is evident from the large number of relevant policy documents, initiatives and platforms. In Europe, besides national governments, European Union (EU) Institutions are also actively promoting eParticipation. In this paper, we investigate the eParticipation policies and current initiatives in the European Union Institutions and introduce a theoretical framework upon which eParticipation related documents and initiatives can be evaluated against parameters generated by democracy and governance theory. The main results of the survey indicate that the emphasis on hierarchical governance modes and emerging network elements employed by the EU in its rhetoric and implemented via eParticipation initiatives proclaimed the will to ensure legitimacy and expand connectivity between strong and weak publics in an open communication strategy.  


The effectiveness of survey recruitment methods in Second Life / Elizabeth Dean, Sarah Cook, Joe Murphy, & Michael Keating

                Abstract: Online virtual worlds are 3D graphical environments in which users create avatars that live, work, and play—some are actual games; others are social networking sites. These worlds offer significant potential for expanding the study of social and economic behavior. One of these worlds, Second Life (SL), began in 2003 and now has more than millions of unique accounts held by virtual residents and approximately 800,000 users who log in each month.   Although few results from SL surveys have been published, automated surveys are common in the virtual world. They are conducted through links to web surveys, by in-world “survey bots” (programs that administer questionnaires), and through e-mail invitation to panel members recruited through Second Life. This article evaluates the effectiveness of recruitment techniques to complete a self-administered survey within Second Life. We tested several techniques: a billboard in an SL public space, classified ads in SL publications, paid search engine advertisements, and SL web forum posts. All survey recruits completed the same survey administered at the RTI Second Life facility kiosk. Our findings suggest that a diverse convenience sample can be obtained in Second Life at a minimal cost. 


The effect of invitation design on web survey response rates / Michael D. Kaplowitz, Frank Lupi, Mick P. Couper & Laurie Thorp

                Abstract: Web surveys present methodological challenges including lower response rates as compared to other survey methods. The literature on invitations to participate in Web surveys builds on previous research suggesting that advance letters are cost-effective means for increasing response rates in mail surveys and interviewer-administered surveys. The efficacy and appropriateness of design elements of invitations to participate in a Web survey is not yet well understood. This research note reports results of a full-factorial experiment (n=15,652) of five design elements of Web survey invitations—invitation mode, subject line, location of URL link, length of the invitation text, and survey time/effort estimate. There were significant effects of different design elements on response rates. The results suggest that some design elements of invitations may have similar effects across subsets of populations while others may have different effects on different subsets of potential respondents.


Assessing the effects of technical variance on the statistical outcomes of web experiments measuring response times / Andrew Brand & Michael T. Bradley

 Abstract: A simulation was conducted to assess the effect of technical variance on the statistical power of web experiments measuring response times. The results of the simulation showed that the reduction in statistical power due to technical variance was negligible. This finding therefore suggests that researchers’ preconceptions concerning the unsuitability of web experiments for conducting research using response time as a dependent measure are misguided.


Data matching to allocate doctors to patients in a microsimulation model of the primary care process in New Zealand / Martin von Randow, Peter Davis, Roy Lay-Yee, & Janet Pearson

                Abstract: We aimed to use existing data to create a microsimulation model of the primary care process in New Zealand, including realistically simulating the allocation of general practitioners (GPs) to a population sample. This is important because GP behaviour is likely to be a major determinant of future cost and service outcomes. Two nationally representative data sets were matched: a sample of GPs and their patients from the National Primary Medical Care Survey, and a population sample from the New Zealand Health Survey. Matching involved first dividing the data sets into cells based on common variables. Further variables were then included in a distance function to guide matching within cells. A transportation optimisation algorithm allocated GPs based on these – on similarities in patients’ attributes. Statistical matching performed well with high correlations for patient attributes and reduced average absolute rank differences on proportions of patients among GPs compared to random matching. Low Kullback-Leibler divergences confirmed that our method of statistical matching had allocated GPs realistically. Models of primary care too frequently omit the role of the practitioner in driving health service outcomes. We developed a method to impute characteristics of GPs to a population-based microsimulation model of primary care.



Reports and Communications


„GANZ RASCH“ – Free software for categorical data analysis / Rainer W. Alexandrowicz

Abstract: This report presents a new and freely available tool for performing analyses according to the Rasch Model and the Latent Class Analysis. The software allows for the estimation of the model parameters and offers several measures of model fit. A graphical user interface provides access to numerous options regarding data, models, and output. For educational purposes, an optional annotate feature allows to augment the output with brief explanations and citations regarding the procedures. Based on published data, the features of GANZ RASCH are briefly illustrated in a worked example. The program intends to combine ease of use while allowing for performing a fully-fledged analysis, thus targeting a wide range of users.


How to increase response rates in list-based web survey samples / Florian Keusch

Abstract: The rising popularity of online surveys in marketing research precipitates a flood of e-mail invitations requesting participation from potential respondents. As a result, response rates are diminishing, reflecting a decline in the willingness to participate in web surveys. To compare the effectiveness of different response-enhancing techniques in a list-based web survey, an experiment with a full factorial between-subjects design varying the factors sender, number of contacts, and questionnaire layout was set up. 1,563 members from a list of IT managers employed at Austrian companies were assigned randomly to one of eight experimental conditions. Their willingness to participate was measured in terms of total response and break-off. The results indicate that using a prenotification message and a female sender for contacting male sample members increases response rates; using an advanced questionnaire layout significantly reduces break-offs, but does not influence total response.


Online data collection in developing nations: An investigation into sample bias in a sample of South African university students / Jarrod Payne & Nikki Barnfather  

                Abstract: The utility of online methods of data collection has led to the rapid adoption of Internet based surveys for social sciences research. Given the potential problems of non-coverage and non-response when making use of this data collection method, the present study aimed to investigate differences between an online and a paper-based sample drawn from the same population and under the same conditions. The sample was composed of 597 undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of the Witwatersrand in the 2010 academic year, the majority of whom (75.2%) chose to complete the paper based version of the questionnaire. Results indicate that Internet access differs for both racial and socioeconomic groups in the sample but that demographic factors continue to affect the choice to complete online even after internet access has been accounted for. Logistic regression analysis revealed that Black-African respondents were less likely to complete online than other race groups while older respondents, those who spend more time online per day, those with higher levels of maternal education, those with lower levels of paternal education as well as female respondents were more likely to make use of the online completion option. Implications and alternatives to online data collection are discussed.