First, what is an online panel?
An online panel is made up of millions of people who sign up to take surveys to get paid. To put it into perspective, it’s very similar to how focus groups recruit their panelists; however, online provides a much larger and diverse panelist sample pool to pull from compared to focus groups. These panelists are vetted through an initial background and interests survey. This is a 10-15 minute survey asking generic questions such as what state you reside in, what city, zipcode, your HHI, gender, age, ethnicity, interests, hobbies, and more.
This initial survey helps providers accurately quote the number of people within the given criteria to answer future surveys. For example, if your only criteria is that the respondents must be Male, the number of surveys you can have filled out are extremely high.
How are they selected?
Based on their answers from the initial survey, the possible qualified respondents are notified when there is a survey they qualify for. Most of the qualified respondents are re-qualified in what we call qualifying questions. Sometimes panelists move states, make more money than they did in their initial survey, or some other demographics have changed.
Once the respondent is re-qualified through qualifying questions, they are accepted to take the remainder of the survey.
Can respondents lie?
Of course, however, it is usually obvious that they aren’t whom they say they are when they complete a survey under the 25% quadrant or select all “Very Favorable” or all “Neutral” or don’t fill out open-ended questions with a valid answer. These people are cleaned out then the additional sample is requested to ensure data integrity.