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Müller, Bettina and Schmiedeberg, Claudia (2020): DO RESPONDENTS GET USED TO ANSWERING SENSITIVE QUESTIONS? REFUSAL OF ITEMS ON SEXUALITY AND FERTILITY IN A PANEL SURVEY. In: Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 84, No. 3: pp. 654-674

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Issues associated with collecting data on sensitive topics are widely studied in survey research. Respondents' reactions to sensitive questions have rarely been addressed from a longitudinal perspective, however, despite panel surveys representing a fundamental data source for social research. This article evaluates whether respondents' acceptance of sensitive questions increases with repeated interviewing in a panel survey. Drawing on data from the German Family Panel (pairfam), we apply fixed-effects regression models to assess within-respondent changes in refusal to items on sexuality and fertility. The analysis reveals that refusal attenuates for some, but not all questions under study and increases for other items over time, with patterns varying across age groups. We conclude that a general beneficial effect of panel experience on the refusal to answer questions regarding sexuality and fertility does not exist. Rather, refusal patterns appear to stem from aging processes and specific life situations.

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