Wording of Questions

Another well-known problem in polling and surveys relates to the wording of the question. Results may vary considerably depending on how a question is worded. The New York Times/CBS News polltakers did an experiment in which they asked people the following question:

Do you think there should be an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting abortions, or shouldn't there be such an amendment?

Only 29% replied yes to that question. 62% said no, and the rest were undecided. Later, the same people were asked the following question:

How did the wording of a question influence an abortion poll?

Do you believe there should be an amendment to the Constitution protecting the life of the unborn child, or shouldn't there be such an amendment?

This time, 50% of the respondents said yes and 39% said no (Dionne, 1980). Clearly the wording of the question influenced the outcome.


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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey