If you’re in survey research, you know that incentives and pre-notification letters can significantly increase survey response rates. But did you know that colors can also impact your survey response?

Using the wrong color can make your survey challenging to read or complete while using the right color can make your survey more appealing for your audience to complete. If you want to learn more about the effect of colors on mail surveys to avoid lower response rates and misleading survey questions, keep reading our post. 


Gray Color 

Effect of Colors on Mail Survey

Traditional surveys have often been in black and white. Yes, there might be touches of different colors around the survey, usually for branding; however, the part where you have to read and answer questions is most likely gray. This is because researchers want as much as possible to avoid any survey bias from emotions triggered by colors. Gray is known to be a neutral color, hence ideal for keeping response bias low. 

Response bias refers to people’s inclination to answer assessments or evaluations based on some influence other than the content (i.e., what questions are being asked). To gain honest feedback, limiting survey bias is very important in mail surveys. Once you’ve sent your questionnaires, you have limited supervision, and respondents have to administer the survey themselves. 

Colored Mail Questionnaire

Effect of Colors on Mail Survey

A Colored Questionnaire can be more noticeable to your audience. Choosing the right color can help your survey stand out and serve as a reminder for the audience to complete the survey. However, you have to also be careful with the colors you use to avoid your questionnaire looking like junk mail. Based on different studies, these three colors have been found to increase response rates when used: Green, Pink, and Purple.  

One study reports a 9.1 percent difference in using green paper instead of white (Pucel, Nelson and Wheeler, 1971). Another study conducted in Geneva, Switzerland showed that mailing questionnaires on pink paper increased response rates by 12% (Etter JF1, Cucherat M, and Perneger TV., 2002). While in a survey of 1600 New Zealand residents drawn at random from the New Zealand Electoral Roll, the most successful color overall was purple. Purple was also the most auspicious color with both male and female participants, throughout all age groups, and with each response wave (Brennan, Mike & Charbonneau, 2005). 

Rating Scale Color

Survey responses can be affected by the color of the rating scales (such as agree-disagree or numerical rating). Colors influence the perception of a scale’s spread and influence results on perception-based- rating questions. In one experiment, the power of the context that formatting can create on survey responses was demonstrated. It was determined that more contrast in colors, using positive and negative (e.g., -3 to +3 as opposed to 1 to 7) scales and fully labeled scales resulted in more positive responses. (Tourangeau, 2007). 

Clarity is the key to collecting accurate data. While color and visual elements might seem more appealing and fun, remember not to go over the top. You don’t want your Mail Survey to be boring, but you also don’t want your survey to be confusing or biased. 


Mail Surveys are among the most effective tools in the research industry, besting online, email, and phone survey methods in both response rate and data integrity. As with all survey research, however, survey success begins with careful planning, including brainstorming your goals, creating questions, choosing participants, determining your budget, and perhaps most tedious, selecting materials and pricing out costs with your vendors. But have no fear. We have you covered with the handy Survey Mail Spec Sheet and Timeline Templates that make your life easy and get you the honest, apples-to-apples quotes you need to keep your costs in check.

If you’d like more information on paper survey design, data collection, or mail surveysin general, contact us today!

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