Online Surveys and Digital Demography in the Developing World: Facebook Users in Kenya

Katherine Hoffman Pham, Stern School of Business New York University
Francesco Rampazzo, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Leah R. Rosenzweig , Institute for Advanced Study and MIT GOV/LAB

As internet and cell phone use spread, a growing number of citizens in developing countries are getting online. Can social media platforms provide a cheaper, faster, and reliable mechanism to reach populations that are currently expensive to survey in comparative contexts? We examine this question in the case of Facebook users in Kenya. First, we obtain the demographic profiles of Facebook users in Kenya using the Facebook advertising platform, which provides data on users’ characteristics for marketing purposes. We compare Facebook users to the overall population of Kenya as reported by the 2019 census and WorldPop data. Second, emulating the sampling strategy used by a nationally representative survey (AfroBarometer), we use Facebook advertisements to recruit online survey respondents. Respondents were asked a series of questions that appear on nationally representative surveys. Fielding our survey on Facebook immediately following the 2019 census and the Round 8 Afrobarometer survey allow us to ensure that any observed differences between our survey and nationally representative samples are not due to differences in timing. We examine how the social and political attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of Kenyans recruited on Facebook compare to offline respondents. In doing so, we aim to evaluate the potential of Facebook to serve as a respondent recruitment mechanism in developing countries. We provide practical information about how to conduct stratified sampling with Facebook ads, outline best practices to improve data quality, and highlight important limitations to consider when conducting online surveys in contexts with varying levels of literacy.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy