The order of response options on online questionnaires impacts respondents' choice

October 09, 2018

This was the conclusion made by researchers from the HSE Centre of Sociology of Higher Education who analysed responses to rating scale questions made by more than 22,000 respondents. Their results showed that the first option from the list of alternatives is chosen most often.

The 'primacy effect,' which is a term for the trend of choosing the first option by respondents, is higher for people without a degree. Scholars explain this effect by general respondents' reluctance to spend time and effort on reading all of the suggested answers.

Another of the study's conclusions is that the questionnaire design also impacts responses. If the options are located not item-by-item under the questions, but rather as a grid where the statements are on the left and the assessment options are on the right, the primacy effect is not observed. This may lead to the conclusion that when questionnaires are designed as a grid, respondents are more attentive while reading and completing them.

In addition, the scholars analysed the impact of completing questionnaires using various types of gadgets. The results showed that there were no significant differences between cases when they were completed with the use of a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or a smartphone.
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National Research University Higher School of Economics

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