Incentivised Online Panel Recruitment and Subjective Wellbeing: Caveat Emptor

Melissa K. Weinberg, Robert A. Cummins, David A. Webb, Wencke Gwozdz

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


It is generally assumed that if a sample represents its broader population on key demographic variables, the data it yields will also be representative. Here we present evidence to suggest that this is not necessarily so when subjective wellbeing is measured from participants recruited through online panels. Using data from six countries: Australia, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, UK and USA, we reveal significant differences in subjective wellbeing between online panel data and nationally representative data, even though both are demographically comparable. These findings indicate that the online panels comprised an abnormally high proportion of people with low subjective wellbeing, thus rendering their data non-representative. Given the widespread use of online panels to collect data in the modern era, we issue a caveat emptor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Well-Being Assessment
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Online panels
  • Data collection
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Sampling

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