How To Avoid 'Leading Questions'

by Caroline Hawksworth

 

Caroline Hawksworth, Avius

What is a Leading Question?

It might be tempting to influence customers to leave positive feedback or leave high ratings by using leading questions. This won’t give you true results or help you to improve your business. Negative feedback is a gift, your customers are letting you know how to make them happy.

Leading questions are those which point the person taking the survey in the ‘right’ direction.For example, if the question includes the answer in the question, or the wording influences them. This also includes asking for agreement or loaded questions that make the respondent answer in a way that isn’t relevant to them.

 

Example of a Leading Question
If you don’t cover all options in the answers available, as above, you won’t receive true results. Or, some respondents will abandon a survey if the answers available aren’t relevant to them.

Examples of Leading Questions


Example:
Did you enjoy our fantastic new attraction?

Including the word fantastic can lead respondents. A neutral question would be; How would you rate our new attraction?


Example:
Please rate the service you received today:

  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Average
  • Poor

The balance of the rating is swayed towards the positive options. Someone who thought the service needed improvement but didn’t think it was dreadful, probably wouldn’t choose poor as it’s the lowest option. When offering a rating scale, it needs to be balanced:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Average
  • Poor
  • Terrible


Example:
If we were to add flights to new destinations, such as Dusseldorf, Valencia or Krakow, where would you like us to fly to?

By giving examples within the question, you’re providing answers, swaying the thoughts of the respondent. If you’d like open ended answers don’t give any examples. If you’d like customers to narrow down a list of options, ask them to choose their top 1 or 3.

Example: The Scottish Referendum. The Scottish government’s preferred question was ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?‘. However, the Electoral Commission tested that question alongside three other questions. They found that ‘Do you agree’ made it a leading question, meaning a Yes vote would be more likely. The question was changed to ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?‘, their research found this to be the most clear and neutral of those tested.

Avoid Question Bias

Keep questions clear and simple, don’t lead the respondent to a specific answer, provide all options to a question or offer Other and make your survey easy to answer.

To help remove biases from leading questions, you could ask someone who has more distance from the topic to review your survey. Someone from outside your company, such as the Avius team, could help provide a more balanced view.

One of the services provided by Avius is Survey Design. Our experienced team will design the survey in your brand and ensure the survey provides you with useful measurable data. This also includes advice on how to reword leading questions.

31st January 2017