Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it?” Well, the same can be said when it comes to asking survey questions! Phrasing poll questions is an art, but luckily it’s something we’re here to help with.
With these five tips for phrasing poll questions, we’ll help you write your questions in a way that is clear, elicits responses, and gets you the reliable data you’re looking for!
5 Tips for Phrasing Poll Questions
Focus on one question at a time
As tempting as it may be to ask more than one question within a single poll question, you can probably guess why this isn’t an effective polling practice! The problem is, this ends up confusing respondents and can ultimately mean they choose the wrong response or just picking the one that they think sounds best.
For example, you might ask: “Did you enjoy our customer service and the store’s atmosphere?”
In the event the respondent had a negative customer service interaction but felt the store’s atmosphere was nice, you can see how this ends up being tricky for them to answer.
Instead, try phrasing these poll questions with two separate questions: “Did you enjoy our customer service?” and “Did you enjoy our store’s atmosphere?”
Don’t lead respondents in any direction
Let’s say you’re taking part in a poll that has a question like this “What did you think of our incredible customer service?”
By including the word “incredible,” the poll creator is assuming your experience was incredible and they’re trying to sway you to answer that way. But this ultimately doesn’t do them any favors. Instead, when phrasing poll questions, let the respondents choose the adjectives that describe their experience rather than including them in your question.
Open vs. close-ended questions
Another important consideration when it comes to phrasing poll questions is using open vs. close-ended questions.
An open-ended question means respondents can type their unique response, while a close-ended question means they must choose from a set of predetermined responses.
Both have their place in polling, but it’s important to choose carefully.
To highlight the importance of doing so, Pew Research Center offers up this example:
In a poll conducted after the 2008 presidential election, people responded very differently to two versions of the question: “What one issue mattered most to you in deciding how you voted for president?” One was closed-ended and the other open-ended. In the closed-ended version, respondents were provided five options and could volunteer an option not on the list.
When explicitly offered the economy as a response, more than half of respondents (58%) chose this answer; only 35% of those who responded to the open-ended version volunteered the economy. Moreover, among those asked the closed-ended version, fewer than one-in-ten (8%) provided a response other than the five they were reading. By contrast, fully 43% of those asked the open-ended version provided a response not listed in the closed-ended version of the question.
All of the other issues were chosen at least slightly more often when explicitly offered in the closed-ended version than in the open-ended version.
We encourage you to make most of your poll questions optional. Even if your poll question phrasing is on point, there’s always a chance these questions simply won’t be relevant to the respondent. So, rather than having them choose any response just so they can continue the survey, make each question optional. This helps ensure the data you ultimately collect is more accurate.
Clarity is key when it comes to phrasing poll questions
When you’re phrasing poll questions, remember this isn’t the time to show off your impressive vocabulary. Choose the simplest version of a word to avoid confusing or frustrating respondents. The same goes for being careful with industry jargon. While an industry-specific word or phrase might be in your everyday vocabulary, there’s a good chance it’s not in your respondents’.
Before distributing your poll, give it an extra read-through to look for any words or phrases that might confuse respondents. You can even have someone else review the poll to offer up a fresh set of eyes!
Cover all possible answer choices
Now, let’s consider phrasing poll question options. When doing so, it’s important to make sure you cover every possible answer your respondents may have.
For example, rather than having them choose between “great” and “awful,” be sure to provide some middle ground. Otherwise, your respondents are more likely to choose the closest option to their experience. Ultimately, there’s a big difference between mediocre and awful. If your questions are phrased appropriately, you can be sure the answers you get are as accurate (and useful) as possible.
Want to learn more about phrasing poll questions and creating great polls?
Here are three more articles to check out next:
- Desktop vs. Mobile Polling: What’s Right for Your Survey?
- How to create online polls and surveys: an A to Z guide for beginners
- 7 Ways to Create Better Online Polls with Swift Polling