Bega legal needs pilot survey ( 2003 ) Cite this report
Ch 2. The pilot survey
The survey required participants to identify that they had experienced a particular legal event when prompted by a description. We were reliant on both the participants’ memories, and on their willingness to reveal personal information during a telephone survey. It has been observed that legal events of a highly personal nature, such as domestic violence, are either not reported or under-reported at best.16
We attempted to minimise under-reporting caused by poor recall by contextualising legal events and providing practical examples to survey participants to assist them in recalling events. We also reassured participants of the confidentiality and anonymity of information collected before asking certain sensitive questions.
Financial constraints also meant that the survey did not identify whether participants had experienced more than one of a particular type of legal event. This may result in a degree of under-reporting for those types of legal events that may recur (such as credit problems). We accept this limitation because the primary purpose of the study was to identify the types of legal events experienced and participants’ behaviour in relation to those events rather than to precisely quantify the number of legal events experienced in a particular region.
As already noted, this survey was conducted as a pilot for a larger survey. We were unable to conduct detailed analyses in several areas due to the relatively small size of the sample (306 participants) and resulting cell sizes. We anticipate that we will be able to explore a wider range of relationships when we conduct the main survey (2400 participants).
Financial and time constraints meant that we were unable to explore fully all events experienced. Detailed information was sought on only 398 of the 572 legal events experienced by survey participants (a maximum of three events per participant). This limited the level of analysis that could be conducted on the pilot data, particularly in relation to how participants handled events. Although we intend to adopt the same approach in the main survey, the larger sample size will allow for more detailed analysis.
Selection of events
The selection of the three events for additional analysis was based on a mixed selection process—participants were first asked to identify their most important event, and then their two most recent. This decision imposed an extra level of analysis (looking separately at the behaviour of participants in relation to their most important event compared to their behaviour generally). However, this analysis did not provide significantly different additional results in most areas. We have therefore decided to select the three most recent events for further analysis for the main survey.
As this was a pilot study we expected (and encountered) a number of teething problems with the survey instrument. Difficulties with the questionnaire and decisions about changes to it for the main survey are discussed throughout this report. These include: