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Avoid This Common Survey Mistake

April 1st, 2021

Do you believe this blog post will help you?

That, my friends, is a leading question. If I as the survey writer put into the question what I think, I am on a subconscious (or maybe even conscience) level make more likely that the survey taker will respond the way I want them to — in this case, it will lead them to answer ‘yes’.

Are you falling into the same trap with your questions? Take a minute, dig out a survey you’re doing now or have done in the past. Review it and look for any questions start with ‘do you believe… or ‘do you think’, because they might be a leading question and might be skewing your survey responses. A big indicator that you might have a leading question in your survey if your response choices are ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

If you do this, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is the most common mistake in survey design that I see. I have had the privilege of coaching a number of organizations on survey design, and one of the things I do is an in-depth survey review to uncover and avoid mistakes like these. And this particular mistake comes up a lot.

The good news is that there’s an easy fix to leading questions like this. Just remove it and replace it with a scale. Like this:

What do you think about this blog post?

Another option is to simply offer an open-ended question and remove the response options entirely. (Make sure to leave plenty of room for a full answer):

Do you see the difference between the earlier question and the rewrites? Seemingly small tweaks like this can help you make sure your survey is getting helpful, actionable data that you can use.

Avoid the common leading question mistake by re-wording your survey question to be objective, and offer a range of responses on a scale. (I often do three point to five point scales.)


Want more survey tips and tricks? My new book, “Nonprofit Program Evaluation Made Simple”, has an entire chapter dedicated to basic survey design. Every book comes with free access to a companion website that is full of downloadable templates, including a survey design template! Get your copy now on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Want a survey review? Reach out, I’d be happy to help.

Want hands on learning? Register for my virtual Survey Design Made Simple workshop on Thursday, May 13.



Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs...

Chari accurately captured the fundamental goals and mission of our organization and transformed our input into a clear evaluation process that helps us assess the impact of our programs on the lives of the families that we serve. Now we have an amazing way to measure the physical, emotional, and mental effects of our programs and to guide change, ensuring that we are delivering services in the most effective way possible.

Brandi Tuck, Executive Director, Portland Homeless Family Solutions

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