Biased and unbiased question types are common when it comes to opinion sampling and drafting surveys. Needless to say, the sort of questions asked in a survey largely influence the results received in the end hence; you may want to opt for questions that are simple and precise. 

Also, it is better to avoid questions that are unclear and subject to multiple interpretations such as vague or ambiguous questions that will confuse your respondents and affect the objectivity of your survey results. In order to properly carry out a survey, it is important to know what biased and unbiased survey questions are. 

What is a Biased Survey? 

A biased survey is a type of survey that is subjective in nature and typically contains questions that are vague and ambiguous. Usually, a biased survey is made up of a number of subjective errors that are traceable to its design and questions. 

Results from a biased survey are squirreled and result in survey response bias and high survey drop-out rates. Numerous factors including the design of the survey, the structure of the survey, the survey theme and background colors of the survey, can create bias in surveys, apart from the questions. 

bias-survey-example

11 Examples of Biased Survey Questions 

Negative Questions

A negative question is a type of question for which a "no" response indicates an affirmative answer and a "yes" response indicates a negative answer. It is best to avoid the use of negatives in your survey because negative questions are tricky and can easily put off respondents. 

Double negative questions are even trickier because such questions create a cognitive burden on respondents. Negative questions, of any kind, cloud the questions' intent and makes it difficult to receive objective responses; hence resulting in high drop-out rates or survey biases. 

Examples of Negative Questions

  • I don't think this service should not be made free.
  1. True
  2. False
  • I don't know about data science
  1. Yes
  2. No

You can rephrase these negative questions to positive and unbiased survey questions such as:

  • Do you think this service should be free?
  1. Yes
  2. No
  • How well do you know about data science?
  1. Not at all
  2. Fairly well
  3. Very well
  4. Excellently well 

Double Barreled Question

Also referred to as a compound question or double-direct question, a double barreled question is a question that addresses two or more mutually exclusive issues and requires only one answer. Compound questions in surveys usually occur when a survey attempts to clarify certain areas of a question by providing extra information or descriptions with synonyms. 

A double barreled or compound question is subject to multiple interpretations. The responses given to compound questions are not exactly useful for analysis because, in many cases, these responses do not reveal the true point of view of the respondent(s). 

Examples of Double Barreled Questions 

  • How satisfied are you with the organization's core management team and prescribed work ethics?

This question is requesting a lot of information from respondents at the same time. Respondents would end up providing answers to none of them or your respondents would focus on the question that appeals more to them while ignoring the other. 

double barreled question example

Double-barrelled questions create unnecessary complexities in surveys. To prevent this, try to split your compound question into 2 separate questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the organization's core management team?
  •  How satisfied are you with the organization's prescribed work ethics?

Dichotomous Questions

A dichotomous question is a question that has two possible response variables, commonly in Yes/No or True/False formats. While dichotomous questions may appear concise and straight to the point, they usually pose a lot of problems for surveyors and respondents. 

A dichotomous question usually restricts the respondent to only 2 possible answer variables. This limits the respondent's choice and may result in survey bias as the respondent ends up picking an option that doesn't necessarily resonate with his or her feelings. 

Examples of Dichotomous Questions

  • Do you know about polio? 

Now, consider these response scenarios:

  • Responder 1: Well, I have heard of polio once in an advert so I'd pick "yes". 
  • Responder 2: Even though I have come across some information about polio once, I don't think it is adequate so I'd pick " no". 

dichotomous question example

Here, you'd see that although the experiences of both respondents are similar, they opt for different options because none of the options accurately capture their exact experiences. Clearly, it is better to rephrase the example above as a multiple-choice question that provides more near-objective choices for respondents as shown in the examples below:

  • How well do you know about polio?
  1. Not very well
  2. Average
  3. Very well
  4. Excellent
  • What do think of your overall customer experience?
  1. Bad
  2. Fair
  3. Good
  4. Great 

Open-Ended Questions

An open-ended question is a question that does not have a specific answer. An open-ended question gives the respondents an opportunity to express themselves fully with little or no restrictions; hence resulting in answers that are in-depth, personal and unique. 

Open-ended questions can result in survey responses that are difficult to analyze as some respondents may provide answers that deviate from the focus of the survey. However, when used rightly, open-ended questions can help you get honest and useful feedback from respondents. 

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

  • What makes our service delivery stand out for you?
  • How would you describe the customer experience with our brand? 

Close-Ended Questions

A Close-ended question is a type of question that has a limited set of options from which respondents can choose. Close-ended questions can be drafted in different formats such as multiple-choice, rating, the scale of preference or "yes/no" format. 

A close-ended question gives you limited insights into the respondents' points of view and it is well suited for quantitative research. Many surveys combine open-ended questions with close-ended questions in order to get the most objective answers from survey respondents.

Examples of Close-Ended Questions 

  • Would you recommend our services?
  • Would you consider doing business with us in the future?
  • Are you happy with your overall customer experience? 

Leading Questions

A leading question is a series of questions targeted at getting premeditated responses from respondents using specific words that subtly cajole the responder to pick premeditated responses. This type of question ruins your survey results in the end because it does not reveal anything new. 

Common types of leading questions are: 

  • Assumption Principle: Here, the question implies that something is true, even though there's no evidence for it. For example, "By how much do you think prices will increase?" already infers that prices will increase. This question can only be appropriate if it was foregone by a positive answer to the question "Do you think the prices will rise?"
  • Piggybacking on Previous Questions: Piggybacking on a previous question refers to creating your survey in such a way that the response to the most poignant question becomes more or less desirable based on their prior responses. Piggybacking on previous questions tilts your responses to one side leading to lopsided data gathering. 

leading-question-biased-survey

Examples of Leading Questions

  • How bad is our organization's customer service? 
  • Should concerned parents prevent their daughters from attending mixed schools?

You can rephrase the above questions into these:

  • Please describe your customer experience with our brand.
  • Do you think parents should stop their female children from attending mixed schools? 

Likert Scale Questions

A Likert scale question is a type of close-ended question that consists of a range of pre-defined ratings which allows participants to evaluate the prompt then choose from a group of answers that range between far extremities. Types of Likert scale questions include quality questions, likelihood questions, and frequency questions. 

The choices provided in a Likert scale question commonly range from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree so that the survey maker can get an encompassing view of people’s opinions. All Likert scale questions also include a mid-point such as neither agree nor disagree, for those who are neutral on the subject matter.

Likert Scale is typically a 5, 7, or 9-point agreement scale used to measure respondents' agreement with a range of assertions. Organizational psychologist Rensis Likert developed the Likert Scale in order to assess the level of agreement or disagreement on a symmetric agree-disagree scale

Example of Likert Scale Questions 

  • Second-language learners can gain linguistic competence.
  1. Strongly agree
  2. Agree
  3. Neither Agree nor Disagree
  4. Disagree
  5. Strongly disagree

The Loaded Question

A loaded question is a type of question that dwells on assumptions. Here, the surveyor asks questions that are supposed to be preceded by certain confirmatory pre-questions. 

Loaded questions basically force respondents to answer the questions in a predetermined way; whether or not these questions align with their experiences. This prevents the survey from getting the best and close-to-accurate answers from respondents. 

Example of Loaded Questions

  • What is your favorite alcoholic drink?

This question already assumes that all respondents take alcohol. Instead, you can rephrase it this way: Do you take alcohol? 

Loaded questions can result in survey drop-outs and vague results. 

Vague Questions

A vague question is a type of question that is broad, undefined, unclear and fails to focus on a specific subject area. If your survey contains vague questions, you will not be able to effectively process the data gathered at the end of the day.

It is important for you to make use of phrases and terms that are precise in your survey questions. In addition, be sure to avoid the use of technical registers and complex words in your surveys that only a few persons can typically understand. 

Examples of Vague Questions

  1. Do you think our customers would recommend our services?
  2. Are we better than other ed-tech companies? 

Instead, you can rephrase these questions as thus:

  1. How likely are you to recommend our services?
  2. Highly unlikely
  3. Unlikely
  4. Likely
  5. Very likely 
  6. Rate the quality of our Ed-tech services:
  7. Poor
  8. Average
  9. Good
  10. Excellent 

Multiple Answers Questions

A multiple answers question is a type of question that allows respondents to choose more than one answer. Multiple answers questions typically appear as part of multiple-choice questions and are used when more than one option is a correct answer in a survey. 

These types of questions create survey biases and distort your survey results at the end of the day. Ensure that your multiple-choice questions contain precise options; where only one of these options is correct and avoid the use of synonyms when listing response options to your questions. 

Examples of Multiple Answers Questions

  • Select the options that appeal to you
  1. Daily subscription plans
  2. Weekly subscription plans
  3. Monthly subscription plans
  4. Annual subscription plans
  • Which meal would you prefer on a flight:
  1. Shawarma
  2. Chicken wrap
  3. Yogurt
  4. Salad

The Absolute Question

An absolute question is a type of question that limits respondents' options to 2 extreme variables; thereby putting survey respondents in a box. It is typically a Yes/No question and may include adverbs of frequency like rarely, always, every, seldom. 

Example of Absolute Questions 

  • Do you always use Formplus for data gathering?. 

Consider rephrasing the question as this:

  • How many times do you use Formplus for data gathering?  

How to Recognise a Biased Survey

One of the easiest ways to spot a biased survey is by paying attention to the type of questions it is made up of. Usually, a biased survey is made up of one or more of the question types highlighted above. 

A biased survey may make use of inaccurate response rating scales. It excludes one or more rating options in order to nudge respondents in a preconceived direction; for example, if you remove "poor" from your rating scale, you have created a biased survey. 

The overall structure of a survey furthers reveal whether it is biased or not. It is better to avoid demographic questions at the beginning of your survey to reduce or prevent the occurrence of high survey dropout rate or survey bias. 

Disadvantages of Biased Surveys

  • Survey Response Bias

Survey response bias refers to the tendency of a respondent to provide inaccurate responses to the questions in a survey. This can occur when a survey contains limited options that do not cater to varying opinions. 

A biased survey often results in survey response bias because the questions asked and options provided are often ambiguous, vague or too complex to understand. In these situations, respondents provide any response that may not entirely reflect their true opinions. 

  • High Rate of Survey Dropout

A survey dropout analysis refers to the number of persons who did not complete a survey due to varying reasons. With a biased survey, you will record a high percentage of survey dropout because respondents may be turned off and fail to complete the survey. 

When surveys contain vague, ambiguous or leading questions, many respondents tend to abandon them. Also, if your survey questions are extremely complex or multi-faceted, respondents may be turned off 

  • Inaccurate Data

Data gathered from biased surveys are often misrepresentations of reality because they do not accurately represent the true opinions of respondents. As such, these pieces of information are not useful in the end and basing any further analysis of this data is usually catastrophic. 

When your survey responses are affected by bias, the data you collect is of a lower quality, often making the response data of your survey useless.

  • Waste of Time

Biased surveys are a waste of time because, in the end, they only provide inaccurate data. This data cannot be depended on for further research. 

Other ways to Avoid Biased Surveys

The best way to avoid biased surveys is to word your questions correctly and avoid questions that are unclear and complex. Furthermore, ensure that you structure your survey the right way as poorly designed surveys often result in a high rate of survey bias. 

More importantly, use trusted data gathering platforms like Formplus to create a survey with the right structure and outlay. 

Why Use Formplus as your preferred Online Survey Tool

Formplus is a data gathering platform that helps you to create unbiased survey forms online. The Formplus survey template is built for offline and online data collection in real-time and has premium survey features like rate field, choice options, unlimited form submission, validation, and geolocation. 

With the unique customization feature, you can personalize your surveys to include background images, preferred color themes, logos, image fields and custom integrations for your survey. The Formplus survey template is a better way of gathering survey responses from your target audience. 

With Formplus, you can easily analyse survey responses by downloading survey response data as CSV files directly. This makes it easier to sort and analyze survey responses. 

Create Online Surveys with Formplus

Conclusion 

It is important to know what biased survey questions are and how to identify them. More importantly, you should note that biased survey questions affect the overall quality of your survey and the survey response data that you gather in the end.  

As already highlighted above, a biased survey leads to high rates of survey dropout, survey response bias, and inaccurate responses. The results from biased surveys are often misrepresentations of opinions. 

Data gathering platforms like Formplus help you to create simple and precise online survey forms which you can use to gather unlimited responses from respondents. You can use the Formplus survey form templates or create your custom survey form using the Formplus builder. 

Try Formplus Online Survey Tool




  • Formplus Blog
  • on 12 min read

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