Common biased survey questions & how to avoid them

Many businesses invest time, energy, and maybe even a few virtual sweat drops into creating the perfect questions for a survey. But when the results roll in, they seem to be suspiciously one-sided. This happens due to inherent bias present in the survey questions.


Biased survey questions can infiltrate even the most well-intentioned surveys and lead you down a path of misleading data and wasted effort.

This article explains:

  • What is a biased question?
  • Different types of survey biases to avoid
  • Some biased survey question examples
  • And bonus tips to help you get the honest feedback you need

What is a biased question?

According to Merriam-Webster, bias in a survey is a type of survey error where one outcome or answer is encouraged over others.

Biased survey questions are worded in a way that pushes respondents to pick a certain answer instead of giving you their honest opinion.

Some characteristics of biased survey questions include:

  • A leading tone that nudges the survey taker to a particular answer option
  • Emotionally charged words that sway respondent’s opinions
  • Build-in assumptions about the respondents’ experiences
  • Double meanings or confusing and multiple interpretations
  • Limited range of responses that don’t capture the full range of survey taker’s opinions.
  • Imbalance question framing that presents one side of the issue more prominently

Biased questions can lead to some major problems for your survey, such as:

  • Unreliable data: If people feel pressured to answer a certain way, your data won’t reflect their true feelings.
  • Wasted time and resources: You spend time and resources creating a survey. Biased questions that produce inaccurate results make the whole effort pointless.
  • Frustrated respondents: Nobody likes to be manipulated. Biased questions can annoy participants and make them less likely to finish your survey.

6 types of bias in surveys and how to avoid them

6 biased survey questions and how to avoid them

Now, let’s go deeper into specific types of survey bias and understand them with biased and unbiased survey question examples.

Leading Bias

Leading question bias occurs when survey questions subtly guide respondents toward a particular answer.

These questions plant a seed in the respondent’s mind and make them more likely to pick an answer that reflects the bias in the question itself.


  1. Biased Question: “Don’t you agree that our new product is the best on the market?”

What makes it biased: This question assumes the respondent agrees with the statement without providing an opportunity to express differing opinions. It leads the respondent to affirm the product’s superiority, which inflates the positive feedback.

Fixed Question: “What are your thoughts on our new product compared to others available on the market?”

  1. Biased Question: “How much do you love our amazing customer service?”

What makes it biased: This question presupposes that the respondent loves your customer service and frames the response positively without considering differing opinions or experiences. It forces respondents to provide positive feedback regardless of their actual feelings.

Fixed Question: “How would you rate your experience with our customer service on a scale from 1 to 5”

Question-Wording Bias

This type of survey bias means your survey contains confusing, vague questions or has unnecessary technical jargon that is difficult to understand.


  1. Biased question: How would you rate the level of synergism within our cross-functional teams?

Why it’s biased: This question uses jargon (“synergism,” “cross-functional”) that some respondents might not understand. If they don’t know what you are asking, their answer does not reflect their true opinion.

Fixed question: How well do different departments within our company collaborate and work together?

  1. Biased Question: “What do you think about the recent changes?”

What makes it biased: This question is too broad and doesn’t specify which changes are being referred to. Respondents may have different interpretations of what changes are being discussed.

Fixed Question: “What are your thoughts on the recent changes to our company’s vacation policy?”

Double Barrelled Questions

Double-barreled questions combine two separate inquiries into one, forcing the respondents to answer both with a single response. Research suggests that asking double-barrelled questions nullifies the validity of the survey.


  1. Biased Question: “Do you think the company provides a supportive work environment and ample opportunities for career growth?”

What makes it biased: This double-barrelled question combines two distinct inquiries about the work environment and career growth opportunities. Respondents may agree with one aspect but disagree with the other, which results in confusion and potentially inaccurate responses.

Fixed Question: “Do you feel the company provides a supportive work environment? Additionally, do you believe there are ample opportunities for career growth within the company?”

  1. Biased Question: “How satisfied are you with the product quality and the delivery speed?”

What makes it biased: This question also addresses two separate aspects—product quality and delivery speed—without allowing respondents to differentiate their satisfaction levels for each. It assumes that satisfaction with one aspect automatically implies satisfaction with the other, which may not be true.

Fixed Question: “On a scale from very dissatisfied to very satisfied, please rate your satisfaction with the quality of the product. Separately, please rate your satisfaction with the speed of delivery.”

Question Order Bias

Question order bias refers to the way the order of your questions can influence how respondents answer later questions.


  1. Biased Question: “Do you agree that our product is affordable? How satisfied are you with its quality?”

What makes it biased: The order of these questions may influence respondents’ perceptions. If respondents are asked about affordability first, they might consider the price when rating quality. It might lead to a lower or higher satisfaction score.

Fixed Question: “How satisfied are you with the quality of our product?

Next question: Do you find our product to be affordable?”

  1. Biased Question: “How likely are you to recommend our product to a friend? Did you find the product easy to use?”

What makes it biased: By asking about the likelihood of recommendation before inquiring about the product’s ease of use, respondents’ perceptions of usability may be influenced by their intent to recommend and produce a biased response.

  1. Fixed Question: “Please rate its ease of use on a scale of 1 to 5. Then, indicate how likely you are to recommend the product to a friend on the same scale.”

Assumptive Bias

Assumptive bias occurs when your survey question makes an assumption that might not be true for all respondents. The assumptions skew your data because you don’t capture the real respondent’s beliefs, experiences, or preferences.


  1. Question: Since our new loyalty program launched, how much more frequently have you been shopping with us?

Why it’s biased: This question assumes the respondent is aware of and has participated in the new loyalty program. It might miss valuable feedback from those who haven’t heard about it yet.

Fixed question: Are you aware of our new loyalty program? If yes, how has it impacted your shopping frequency with us?

  1. Biased Question: “Given the popularity of our new product, how likely are you to recommend it to a friend?”

What makes it biased: This question presupposes that the new product is popular and assumes that popularity correlates with the likelihood of recommendation. It may influence respondents to give a positive recommendation based on perceived popularity rather than their product assessment.

  1. Fixed Question: “On a scale from very unlikely to very likely, how likely are you to recommend our new product to a friend based on your personal experience with it?”

Negative and Double Negative Bias

Negative bias happens when you ask biased survey questions with a negative term that forces respondents to interpret “no” as the positive answer. Double negatives take it a step further and use two downright confusing negatives.


  1. Biased question: Do you find the long wait times at checkout to be not bothersome?

Why it’s biased: This question uses a negative term (“not bothersome”) and makes it unclear whether a “yes” means they find the wait times acceptable.

Fixed question: How satisfied are you with the wait times at checkout? (Very Dissatisfied, Dissatisfied, Neutral, Satisfied, Very Satisfied)

  1. Biased question: “Don’t you agree that the new policy isn’t ineffective?”

What makes it biased: This question contains a double negative (“isn’t ineffective”), which can confuse respondents. It’s unclear whether the intention is to assess agreement with the policy’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness, leading to potentially contradictory responses.

Fixed question: “Do you believe the new policy is effective in achieving its intended goals?”

Tips to avoid biased survey questions

Here are some tips to help you create crystal-clear survey questions that get you real feedback.

  • Ensure your questions are free from loaded or emotionally charged language. Avoid jargon and overly complex sentence structures.
  • Provide balanced response options to avoid skewing responses toward one end of the spectrum.
  • Don’t prime respondents with positive or negative questions that influence their answers later on.
  • Include an “Other” or “Not applicable” option to accommodate respondents whose experiences may not align with the provided choices.
  • Stick to one topic per question to prevent confusion and ensure respondents provide relevant answers.

Unbiased survey questions lead to accurate data

Unbiased surveys are essential for accurate data-driven decision-making. They save you time, resources, and frustration.

Now that you know different types of question bias, you can ensure your surveys are clear and concise, and capture honest feedback.

Formaloo is a user-friendly survey maker and form builder that lets you design clear, unbiased questions, gather valuable data, and easily analyze your findings.  

Sign up for free today.

Get productivity tips delivered straight to your inbox
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get started for free

Formaloo is free to use for teams of any size. We also offer paid plans with additional features and support.

Common biased survey questions & how to avoid them