Response bias is really an umbrella term that can refer to a wide range of different types of biases that influence the responses participants give in polls. Ultimately however any type of bias will affect the accuracy of the data, and make the poll itself less meaningful.

The good news is that you can reduce the response bias in polls significantly by simply asking the right questions. In fact, there are several ways to go about it:

  • Avoid questions that are leading

Leading questions are one of the most frequent causes of response bias, and should be avoided at all costs. Essentially you need to make sure that your question does not ‘prompt’ or ‘suggest’ the response in any way, but is neutral instead.

In some cases even hypothetical questions can be a bit leading, and so it may be best to try to avoid them too.

  • Phrase short and simple questions

Try to make sure that all of your questions are phrased in a brief and simple manner – while still being able to clearly convey their meaning. When a question is too long it can get confusing, and response bias is more likely to be present.

It is best to avoid uncommon words, jargon, and colloquialisms that can be open to interpretation. The people responding to your poll will likely come from different backgrounds, and the meaning of some words or phrasings may not be easy to understand.

  • Never ask two questions in one

Always make sure that each question in your poll is really a single question – and not two questions rolled into one. If your question has an ‘or’ or ‘and’ in it, you should look at it closely.

If questions are combined, the responses will not be as accurate – as different people may be responding to different parts of the question.

  • Provide balanced and exhaustive answers

In multiple-choice questions, the set of answers that you provide must be balanced and exhaustive. For example a set of four answers that has three positive answers and one negative is not balanced.

To be exhaustive your answers should cater to more varied responses. Including a ‘None of the above’ and ‘Other’ option can help in most of those cases.

The manner in which your poll is structured can also affect the amount of response bias that is present. That is why it is always best to build a poll from scratch and carefully sequence the questions so that their responses aren’t too leading. While building polls can be difficult, using a poll maker such as AidaForm Online Form Builder can help.

It should be noted that completely eliminating response bias isn’t easy, and involves areas apart from the questions alone. That being said with the right questions you can keep the amount of response bias to a minimum, and help to improve the accuracy of the data that you collect by leaps and bounds – making your poll far more meaningful in the process.

Image Credits: Response Bias in Polls from sdecoret/Shutterstock

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