What is a Loaded Question in Surveys? (With Examples)

question marks - load question blog post

Have you ever participated in a survey or questionnaire and felt like the questions were designed to sway your answers in a certain direction? You're not alone.

Loaded questions are one of the common errors of surveys that we always have clients avoid.

These questions not only skew data but ultimately hurt your business when you try to make important decisions based off of the now, inaccurate data.

In this article, our market research company explores what loaded questions are, how they differ from leading questions, and provide examples of loaded survey questions to help you recognize (and avoid writing) them.

What is a Loaded Question in a Survey?

A loaded question is a question written by a survey designer aimed to push the respondent to a specific answer. It is also often referred to as a leading question, although the two are slightly different. 

Loaded questions often contain emotionally charged language, exaggerations, or implications that steer the respondent toward a particular response.

For example, a loaded question might be, "Do you agree that our company's product is the best on the market?"

This question is loaded because it assumes that the company's product is the best, and it can be difficult for the respondent to provide an honest answer if they don't agree with the premise of the question.

Recommended Reading: Common Survey Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Why You Need To Avoid Loaded Questions in Surveys

In our experience, it’s beneficial to recognize these questions and avoid them because they can distort the truth and in this case, the data. To spot them, look for any assumptions put within the question. This is key for clear, direct communication. 

Loaded questions often feel unfair to respondents because they limit how someone can respond naturally.

For instance, when asking, “Have you stopped misplacing your item?” can feel like it implicates something.

However, a question like, “Where do you put your item?” doesn’t trap the person into confirming something false or biased.

It’s best to avoid questions that have these assumptions since they can mess with the data that ultimately drives business decisions. Since you want to be making confident decisions with your data, your questions need to reflect that as well.

What is the Difference Between Loaded and Leading Questions?

While a loaded question contains more emotionally charge language, leading questions can be more subtle in their approach.

Leading survey questions are designed to lead the respondent toward a particular answer or viewpoint, without necessarily using emotionally charged language or assumptions.

For example, a leading question might be, "How likely are you to recommend our product to your friends and family?"

This question is leading because it assumes that the respondent is likely to recommend the product, and it may influence their response.

How are loaded questions and leading questions different?

In short, a loaded question is one that is designed to elicit a particular answer or to influence the respondent in a particular way. Whereas, a leading question, on the other hand, is one that suggests a particular answer or direction to the respondent.

How are loaded questions and leading questions the same?

In general, both loaded and leading questions can bias the results of market research, as they can influence the responses of the respondents.

It's why it's important for our online survey agency to avoid using loaded or leading questions, and to strive for neutrality and objectivity in their survey questions.

Can a survey question be both leading and loaded?

It is possible for a survey question to be both leading and loaded.

For example, a survey question like "Don't you agree that the new policy will greatly benefit the company?" is both leading and loaded.

The use of the word "benefit" suggests a positive outcome, and the question assumes that the policy will have a positive impact on the company, which may not necessarily be the case.

Recommended Reading: The Science Behind Survey Writing [5 Tips to Better Survey Questions]

Examples of Loaded Questions in a Survey

Loaded questions in surveys can come in many forms. Some are blatantly obvious while some are more difficult to notice. 

Here are some examples of loaded questions that bias the respondent to pick a specific answer:

  1. "CBS is America's most-watched network. What network channel do you watch the most?" ⚠️ Problem: The survey writer makes the respondent aware CBS is the most popular before asking.

  2. "Some say ABC hospital does not provide a high quality of care to patients, what is your impression of ABC hospital?" ⚠️ Problem: The survey writer sets a negative tone for a poor impression of ABC Hospital.

  3. "In the past 12 months, have you quit drinking alcohol?" ⚠️ Problem: Regardless of whether or not the survey respondent drinks or has never drank alcohol, he/she is forced into a yes or no question and assumes guilt as if he/she should quit.

Contact Our Online Survey Company

Drive Research is a national market research company specializing in online surveys including survey design, programming, fieldwork, and analysis.

Working with a third-party online survey company assures your survey is written with no leading or loaded questions. Doing so assures higher quality data to drive decision-making.

Interested in learning more about our services? Contact us today.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

subscribe to our blog




Market Research Glossary Online Surveys