leading question

What are leading questions?

Leading question is a type of question that pushes respondents to answer in a specific manner, based on the way they are framed. More than often, these questions already contain information that survey creator wants to confirm rather than try to get a true and an unbiased answer to that question.

Biases can sneak up in the most unexpected ways and if these biases are present in the form of leading questions in a survey, the purpose of creating a survey is diluted, since the responses will be biased based on the leading question. These responses and collected data will not lead to insightful survey reports and conclusions.

Poorly constructed survey questions can lead to undesirable answers. If a survey creator is unaware of biases while framing questions, then these biases reflect in poor decision making based on partially true data. This may result in adversely affecting an organization or business who use this data for research and business purposes.

What is a Biased Survey?

A biased survey is a survey which is bound to have errors due to:

  1. Survey design
  2. Leading questions asked in a survey

At all time, a survey creator should design and develop a survey, where questions asked should not influence survey responses. A biased survey can lead to a higher dropout rate, as survey respondents lose interest in survey.

A well-written survey question allows respondents to answer truthfully, without being pulled to one side or obvious biases. In simpler words, questions should not confuse respondents about which option to choose.

Learn More: Survey Questions: Survey Examples and Sample Survey Questions

Leading Questions- Examples

Example: Did you like our fantastic new offering?

Using “fantastic” in the above question can lead to biases amongst respondents. A more neutral question would have been:

How would you rate our new offering?

  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Average
  • Poor

Example: Where do you enjoy drinking scotch?

This question leads people to believe they like drinking only scotch, however, there might be respondents who don’t like scotch, or may prefer some other alcoholic beverage or may be completely teetotaller. Therefore, they might not be able to answer truthfully.

In the above example, it will sensible to first ask a preliminary question to know if respondents consume alcohol/scotch.

The right question to ask in this context would be: Do you consume alcoholic beverages?

  • Yes
  • No

If they answer “yes”, then they should be directed to a next question, else, skip logic should be applied to let respondents pass over the question that isn’t applicable to them.

Example: Do you always consume fast food? (Yes/No)

Literally, this question would invariably lead respondents to answer no, even if they consume fast food a couple of times a week.

The right question would be: How many times a week do you consume fast food?

  • Everyday
  • 5-6 times a week
  • 3-4 times a week
  • 1-2 times a week
  • I don’t consume fast food

How to avoid Leading Question?

  • Keep questions clear and simple, avoid leading the respondent to a specific answer, provide appropriate answer options and offer, “other” option to make sure survey is easy to respond.
  • To remove biases from leading questions, survey creator can take an opinion from someone who is distant from survey topic. It is always good to have an extra set of eyes scan through survey to remove any biases before deploying survey.
  • Avoid using jargons in questions, using terms that are technical in nature or difficult to understand can lead to leading questions. When respondents fail to understand the question, they choose an answer option that is best understood by them.

Final Thoughts

A survey creator must avoid asking leading questions to be able to get correct and truthful responses. To avoid biases in a survey, make sure to clearly state all answer options so that respondents can choose best possible options for them. Make sure to include “Prefer not to answer option”. Many people tend to drop out of a survey if they are uncomfortable answering a certain question.

By practicing the attributes mentioned above, survey creators can avoid asking leading questions and practice consciously, the art of asking right questions to get meaningful research insights for their organizations or businesses.  

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