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Concept

Bias in Survey Questions

In a survey, data is collected by participants answering a series of questions. Unfortunately, poorly designed surveys can negatively affect the results of a study. For example, leading questions influence participants' answers so that their original views are not reflected. The phenomenon of such influence is called bias in survey questions. A variety of factors contribute to bias.

Double-Barreled Questions

A double-barreled question causes the reader to answer two questions with the same single answer, thus disallowing for the necessary nuance to answer both questions separately. To avoid this issue, verify the question and, if needed, split it into two or more questions.

Biased Question Unbiased Question
How likely are you to recommend the books and movies of The Lord of the Rings? How likely are you to recommend the books of The Lord of the Rings?
How likely are you to recommend the movies of The Lord of the Rings?
How much do you enjoy playing video games and watching movies? How much do you enjoy playing video games
How much do you enjoy watching movies?

Question Order

This bias happens when questions that are related are not presented in logical order. For example, questions asked early in a survey can influence how participants answer questions later in the survey.

Biased Order
What is your least favorite math subject?
How much do you enjoy math?

In this case, asking about their least favorite math subject will have a strong influence on how someone responds if later asking about their feelings towards math. Using the inverse order will produce a fair response.

Unbiased Order
How much do you enjoy math?
What is your least favorite math subject?

Depending on the situation, randomization can also be applied to avoid this bias.

Leading Questions

A leading question leads respondents to answer in a specific way, either intentionally or unintentionally desired by the surveyor. To avoid this bias, ask questions clearly, and do not use words that encourage specific answers.

Biased Question Unbiased Question
Do you always consume fast food? How often do you consume fast food?
How healthy are you? How would you rate your health?

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the factors that can lead to bias in survey questions. Other factors such as language, length of the survey, and asking answerable questions should also be considered to avoid biases in questions.