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Cognitive Pretesting of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2021 Internet Use Survey

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Working Paper Number rsm2022-08


In an interagency project between the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), under the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the bureau’s Center for Behavioral Science Methods conducted cognitive interview research on the NTIA Internet Use Survey (IUS). The IUS, which has been administered periodically since 1994, is a supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). The primary purpose of the cognitive testing research was to test new and revised questions in the IUS. The secondary purpose was to gain qualitative insight into several issues, including the underreporting of cyberbullying and cost as a reason why people do not access the internet or cable television at home. Two iterative rounds of testing were conducted, with 15 participants interviewed each round.

Overall, results from both rounds showed that participants were able to answer most questions with little to no difficulty. In Round 1, problematic questions included one question where participants confused one device term for another device term, and another question where several participants considered their Wi-Fi connection and router although these hardware were out of scope for the question. In Round 2, revisions of the IUS reduced confusion between device terms, however, revisions did not eliminate all instances of participants considering Wi-Fi connections and routers for the previously problematic question. Across both rounds, we found evidence that a closed-ended response format may elicit more data about why participants do not access the internet or cable television, and may increase the likelihood that participants feel comfortable reporting cost as a reason. Finally, the investigation of the underreporting of cyberbullying was inconclusive because the IUS only allows people 15 years old and older to be the respondent and give direct reports. Thus, we were not able to validate reports for children under 15 years of age. The results of these cognitive interviews helped inform development of the 2021 IUS, which was implemented in the field in late 2021.


NOTE: The NTIA Internet Use Survey is formerly known as the CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplement


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