The question remains what the future of survey research will look like. This question affects several factors or entities involved with survey research. What will future survey tools and methods look like? What will future peoples' attitudes or general emotions toward surveys be like? How will future survey creators deal with possibly tremendous shifts in their professional fields?
We have put together some theories on how survey research may change and affect these aspects in question.
- Issues concerning high respondent survey fatigue and low response rates will most likely prevail within the future, especially due to digital communication opportunities that tempt many people or organisations to get their surveys out there.
→ This will potentially require an even stronger incentivisation or compensation of surveys for respondents to overcome inhibitions or aversions.
- Interactive surveys might become a predominant form of conducting surveys, thereby enabling respondents to chat with survey creators.
→ This might increase the attractiveness of general survey experiences due to a proper dialog, a kind of hybrid of old and new methods, i.e. bringing the old-school face-to-face interview format into a digital survey context.
- Open text questions will be increasingly easy to analyse for artificial intelligence (AI) tools and therefore deployed more often without concerns about the evaluation.
→ This might benefit survey creators in a manner that it offers more flexibility and appreciation for respondents who may then respond in their own words instead of being forced into a certain response grid.
- The current trend toward the dominance of mobile survey-taking will likely persist and grow.
→ Depending on the technological direction we are going to take with regard to portable smartphone computers, responsive web technologies will remain most important also for survey tools; furthermore humans' attention spans within digital environments will continue to converge to zero.
- A potential alternative approach with respect to technological advancements could be surveys conducted via augmented or virtual reality experiments, i.e. putting people into a digital environmental context or a real-life-digital-hybrid context where real-life interviews or surveys are simulated which ultimately might augment the entire survey-taking experience.
- There is a reasonable possibility that a replacement of human respondents by intelligent machines might take place when conducting surveys to avoid the central issue of survey fatigue.
→ Machines with sufficient learning progress may hence represent opinions of a human population which would render human respondents obsolete.
- Looking even farther into the future with an even more speculative theory, the possibility of humans and machines fusing to create cyborgs of sorts may alter survey research as we know it. This could potentially someday enable survey creators to download contents including opinions and feedback from respondents' brains which will render the actual process of taking surveys obsolete. Admittedly though, this is rather far-fetched at this moment in time.
Nevertheless, just like any other area of our everyday lives, survey research will continue to be subject to intense paradigmatic shifts in the future which might bring a new sense of excitement to this field again.