This study compared different types of respondent to a postal survey. A random sample of women aged 20-64 years (n = 4057) was selected from a population-based cervical screening register to examine their information experience during the screening programme. The initial response rate was 57%, and this increased to 81% after one reminder. Respondents were older (P <0.0001) than non-respondents, but both groups were comparable with regard to attendance history for cervical screening (respondents 89.3%; non-respondents 89.1%) and normal smear test results (respondents 84.0%; non-respondents 81.4%). Early and late respondents were similar in age. Compared with late respondents, early respondents were more likely to live in highly affluent (P <0.0001) and rural areas (P = 0.026). They were also more likely to be non-attenders (P <0.0001), but they were less likely to have had inadequate smear results (P = 0.030) than late respondents. These results suggest that consideration should be given to factors other than sociodemographic differences when examining response patterns to postal surveys.