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Letter from The Survey Company to Scott Rose regarding the data for the New Family Structures Study
Letter from The Survey Company to Scott Rose regarding the data for the New Family Structures Study

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Published by: SexualMinorityResear on Sep 05, 2012
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1GfK Custom Research, LLC2100 Geng Rd, Suite 210Palo Alto, CA 94303USATel. +1 650 289 2000Fax +1 650 289 2001
Mr. Scott RoseInvestigative Journalist2000 Broadway, Apt 5KNew York, NY 10023
RE: Your information request of August 30, 2012
Dear Mr. Rose,We are happy to answer, as best we can, your questions regarding Mr. DarrenSherkat’s forthcoming article to be published in Social Science Research andmore generally, the original article authored by Mr. Mark Regnerus in SocialScience Research.The essential point here is to clarify the role of Knowledge Networks (now partof GfK Custom Research, LLC) in conducting the study. We provided thesample of respondents, programmed the questionnaire into an online mode ofsurvey delivery, administered the survey online to the respondents, and thencompiled and delivered the survey data. Mr. Regnerus, not KnowledgeNetworks, owned exclusively the tasks of designing the survey sample plan,preparing and drafting the survey questions, analyzing the data, andinterpreting the data. This division of responsibilities is quite common in ourwork with the government and academic communities. Most of the criticismsmade by Mr. Sherkat are more accurately directed toward the author of theoriginal article, Mr. Regnerus.We have consistently achieved 93% and higher approval ratings from ourcustomers in our customer satisfaction surveys, and we conducted this surveywith the same rigor and care that we provide our other government andacademic clients. One of the main factors underlying our customers’satisfaction is our use of KnowledgePanel
as the sample source for most ofour survey projects. The American Association of Public Opinion Researchers(AAPOR) Online Task Force Report clearly states in its recommendations thata probability-based web panel, of which KnowledgePanel is the only panel inthe U.S., should be used by researchers when the goal is to measureaccurately the characteristics of a population. KnowledgePanel isacknowledged by many as the gold standard in high-quality online populationresearch.
September 5, 2012
J. Michael Dennis, Ph.D.Government and AcademicResearch+1 650 289 2160Mike.Dennis@gfk.com
Below are specific notes on observations made by Mr. Sherkat in hismanuscript.
Mr. Sherkat wrote:
Given the standards that prevail, it is likely that the recruitment rate is extremely low for both the RDD and “address based” sampling.
Mr. Sherkat is referring to the response rate in the panel recruitment forKnowledgePanel. The documented response rates for KnowledgePanelrecruitment are consistent with response rates reported by academicresearchers in their work published in peer-reviewed social science andpolicy journals.
Mr. Sherkat wrote:
And, given that only 1.7% of respondents were (mis)classified as children of “gays” or “lesbians,” these data are certainly not up to the task of adequately informing our understanding of same sex parenting.
The Regnerus study results are not based exclusively on therepresentativeness of the study sample. An important factor in producingany error in the statistics is the wording of the actual survey questions. Asnoted above, Knowledge Networks did not write or design the surveyquestions for this study.
Mr. Sherkat wrote:
Regnerus’ web page shows that the panel has suffered 34% attrition (what are called “withdrawn panelists”), and only 61.6% of the current panel responded to the Regnerus survey.
To clarify, the 34% statistic refers to the share of the survey sample invitedto the study that was from former KnowledgePanel members (so-called“withdrawn panelists”). The rest of the invited sample was from currentmembers of KnowledgePanel. The use of former KnowledgePanelmembers to supplement current Knowledge Panel members is commonpractice in studies that are focused on subpopulations.A 61.6% survey completion rate is comparable to completion ratesobtained by Knowledge Networks for many other studies that are publishedin peer-reviewed journals, and outperforms the 4% to 5% completion ratesobtained by opt-in web panels.
Mr. Sherkat wrote:
Given that withdrawn respondents were likely withdrawn because of concerns about their reliability as members of the data panel---it is inappropriate to have 11% of the fictive children of “gays and lesbians” recruited from these withdrawn panelists.
Panel members are withdrawn for a variety of reasons. For example,
KnowledgePanel is based on a rotating panel design whereby cohorts ofrandomly selected panelists are retired after regular intervals of time spenton the panel. By way of another example, we withdraw panelists fromKnowledgePanel if they do not participate in our surveys after some periodof time.
Mr. Sherkat wrote:
Predictably, there are several red flags in these data. The “nationally representative” panel is 32.7% male and 67.3% female.
Because of the Regnerus study’s population requirements we sampled allthe KnowledgePanel members in a certain age range. This is a departurefrom our normal practice and prevented us from employing our standardtechnique for drawing panel samples that employs probability-basedsample stratification. Mr. Regnerus was notified of this modification in ourprocedures.
Mr. Sherkat wrote:
Nobody should expect to publish a paper in a journal of the tier of Social Science Research on crucial questions using data collected in this manner.
Indeed, the “gold standard” of research on family outcomes would require arandomly drawn sample of parents and children followed longitudinally andinterviewed by a professional field interviewer.It’s unclear to us to what extent Mr. Sherkat’s italicized conclusion isdirected at KnowledgePanel as a sample source, as opposed to the otheraspects of the survey design such as question wording. Mr. Sherkat is ofcourse entitled to his opinion on what is the “gold standard of research onfamily outcomes.” Surveys conducted in person with field interviewersusing probability-based samples are becoming increasingly rare becauseof the growing costs of such research, shrinking budgets, decreasingresponse rates, and the logistical difficulties of conducting such interviewsin gated communities and secured buildings. The KnowledgePanelapproach over the last ten years has become the gold standard for web-based surveys of public opinion.Below are responses to your specific questions and notes.
Where Regnerus asked respondents "Have you ever masturbated?" he gave them the option to decline to respond; and 110 respondents declined to respond. But, out of 2,988 respondents, 620 adults between the ages of 18 and 39 said that they have never once in their lives masturbated.

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