When is a leading question a great question? #MRX 


It’s true that for the most part, leading questions are the sign of a poorly skilled, inexperienced survey writer.  When it’s pointed out, most of us can see that these are terrible questions.

  • Do you agree that sick babies deserve free healthcare?
  • Should poorly constructed laws be struck down?
  • Is it important to fund new products that improve the lives of people?
  • Should products that cause rashes be pulled from stores?
  • Should stores always have enough cashiers so that no one has to wait in a long line?

But are leading questions always bad? I think not. However, these are situations that only experienced researchers should attempt. Leading questions may be appropriate when you are trying to measure socially undesirable, embarrassing, unethical, inappropriate, or illegal activities.  Consider these examples.

Would you say yes to this:

  • Have you driven drunk in the past three months?

What about to this?

  • Many people realize that they have driven after having too much to drink. Is this something you have done in the last three months?

Would you say no this?

  • Have you donated to charity in the past three months?

What about to this?

  • Sometimes it’s hard to donate to charity even when you really want to.  Have you donated to charity in the past three months?

In both cases, it is possible that the first question will cause people to give a more socially appropriate answer, but not necessarily the valid answer.  In both cases, the second question might create a mindset where the responder feels better about sharing a socially undesirable answer.

The next time you need to write a survey, consider whether you need to write a leading question. Consider your wording carefully!

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  1. […] When is a leading question a great question? – The LoveStats Blog […]

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