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Examples of bad survey questions

A good survey will provide you with a wealth of valuable data to better your decision-making. A bad survey could result in useless or inaccurate information and a poor return on investment. The success of a survey starts with its questions.

This article will highlight what makes a good survey question and what makes a bad one with examples of bad survey questions to avoid. You’ll also learn how SurveyMonkey can help you improve your survey questions.

The basis of your survey is the questions. Your questions are important as a communication tool, namely, as a powerful touchpoint with your survey audience. But, in addition, the primary function of each question should be data collection. The right question type, phrasing and answer selection will optimise your data collection, in terms of quality and also yield. Therefore, the stronger your survey questions, the more reliable your results, and, ultimately, your research conclusions. Ask bad survey questions, and you will fail to get the information you need, or, in the worst case, false insights.

The perfect survey question is one that can be read once, easily understood without misinterpretation and answered honestly. To start, ensure you are using the best type of survey question for your data collection goals. When writing your survey questions, remember:

●     Questions that are too long risk survey fatigue and are not mobile friendly

●     Questions that are irrelevant for a proportion of your target audience are off-putting

●     Questions that presuppose the response or are biased result in bad/inaccurate data

●     Questions with too few answer options will generate substandard data/could be exclusionary

A bad survey question is confusing, opinionated, presumptive, exclusionary, irrelevant, too narrow or large in scope or without the appropriate choice of answers. The best ways to avoid bad survey questions are:

●     Know your target audience

●     Be clear on the objective of your survey question

●     Use concise, unambiguous and neutral language

●     Offer a choice of answers that cover all bases

The wrong type of survey question will either generate the wrong kind of data or it will fail to maximise your data collection potential.


How likely are you to recommend our product?

  • Very likely
  • Likely
  • Neutral
  • Unlikely
  • Never

Why it’s a bad survey question:

By offering multiple-choice answers to this question, the researcher is limiting the information gathering potential of this question. If they had opted for a net promoter score question, they would have richer data on which to base conclusions.

If the responders’ choice of predefined answers is too narrow, you risk losing out on helpful insights. The set of answers offered is a key part of the survey question.


Do you like using our online store?

  • Yes
  • No

Why it’s a bad survey question:

This is a missed opportunity. Adding a comment box (if no, please specify your answer here…) would provide a much richer picture of the user-friendliness of the online store.

Asking a question that is inappropriate or irrelevant for a proportion of your audience could generate confusion and cause responders to exit the survey before completing it.


How would you rate our skin care product after six months of use?

  • Very good
  • Good