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
  • Average
  • Poor
  • Very poor

Why it’s a bad survey question:

The question excludes respondents who have been using the product for a shorter time. This can be off-putting to respondents who do not meet the criteria of the question because they are unsure how or whether to answer it. The skin care company could also miss valuable information, such as short-term effectiveness, that would be a good selling point.

Writing a survey question that can be properly understood is crucial for data quality. Write for your target audience, avoid jargon and keep it simple.


Did you find our website design intuitive?

  • Yes
  • No

Why it’s a bad survey question:

This example uses specific terminology the respondent may not understand. A better phrasing could be: Did you find what you were looking for on our website?

Making assumptions about your target audience could be off-putting for responders if the assumption is untrue. Perhaps they will not know how to answer the question, or you could generate poor data if they feel they should answer a certain way.


On average, how many minutes do you spend on TikTok each day?

  • Less than 30
  • 30–60
  • More than 60

Why it’s a bad survey question:

This question implies the respondent knows the app, is a daily user and could easily estimate the time they spend on the app – unless surveying TikTok users, this is a lot to assume of every respondent.

Placing any kind of opinion within a survey question is leading and could prompt responders to give false answers so as to match the opinion stated. This will result in substandard data.


Our dog food is clinically proven to improve canine oral health. Do you agree?

  • Yes
  • No

Why it’s a bad survey question:

The question encourages the respondent to agree with the statement as a scientific fact, rather than giving an honest appraisal of their experiences. A more neutral question would be:

Has your dog’s oral health changed since introducing them to our dog food?

  • Improved
  • Unchanged
  • Worsened

Ambiguous survey questions confuse responders often resulting in guessed answers, which will substantially negatively impact the results of your survey.


How old are you?

  • Under 30
  • 30–50
  • 50–70
  • Over 70

Why it’s a bad survey question:

In this example, if the respondent is 50, they are unsure which box to check. To avoid ambiguity, the age bracket 50–70 could be changed to 51–70 for instance.

Writing effective survey questions is a daunting task, so that’s where SurveyMonkey comes in. SurveyMonkey has a number of tools and features to help you write better survey questions. Our example questionnaires and survey templates are a rich resource of ready-to-use, professional survey questions. For more guidance, try SurveyMonkey Genius, which brings together AI, survey experts and machine learning to point out potential mistakes and give personalised recommendations to improve your survey. With SurveyMonkey, you’ll save time and maximise your return on investment by avoiding problematic questions.

This article has highlighted several common mistakes that could damage the effectiveness of your survey questions, and thereby the quality and yield of your data collection. Specifically, questions that fall into the following categories will result in poor data:

●     Wrong type

●     Too narrow choice of answers

●     Exclusionary of a proportion of your target audience

●     Overly complex phrasing

●     Presumptive of your target audience

●     Opinionated

●     Ambiguous

Writing the perfect survey question takes a lot of time and effort, cutting into your return on investment. SurveyMonkey offers a solution. Get expertly crafted survey questions in seconds that will generate the best insights for your research interest. Try it today and avoid bad survey questions.

A good survey question is one that can be easily understood without misinterpretation and answered honestly.

What is a bad survey question?

A bad survey question is:

●     Confusing

●     Opinionated

●     Presumptive

●     Exclusionary

●     Irrelevant

●     Too narrow or large in scope

●     Without the appropriate choice of answers 

To avoid bad survey questions, it is key to understand the goal of the question in terms of the data you are looking to collect. You must write for your target audience in concise, unambiguous and neutral language and utilise the most appropriate and informative type of survey question (multiple choice, likert scale, open-ended, net promoter score, ratings, etc,). If you are offering a set of predefined answers, they should be wide enough in scope to give your respondents the best possibility of answering fully and honestly.

An example of a bad survey question is one that uses convoluted language or specific terminology the respondent may not understand. For example: Did you find our website design intuitive? A less complex and more inviting phrasing of this survey question for the average responder is: Did you find what you were looking for on our website?