Attitudinal questions are common in surveys. They are often asked using an agree-disagree rating question format. The challenge is always to create statements that capture important elements of the attitudes we are trying to measure. Ideally, if the budget allows it, we should do qualitative research to gather insights into such elements and how people think and talk about them.
Even with qualitative data available, writing good attitudinal statements is not an easy task. Here are some guidelines to facilitate the process:
- Include only relevant items for the attitudes that are being measured: Adding irrelevant items or missing important ones is detrimental to the quality of the analysis.
- Write statements in present tense and avoid referencing to the past: Past tense relies on memory plus we will never know if the respondent is referring to yesterday, a week ago of ten years ago.
- Avoid giving to much information about facts or elements that can be interpreted as tales.
- Avoid ambiguity.
- Create statements that express in-favor or against opinions related to what it is being measured. Think, “I go to work every day” vs. “I love to work every day.” Do not use items that would describe different points in a continuum (“Sometimes I like to work”), as this can be confusing. If you need to do that, it means you would be better off converting the item to a separate rating question with a specific scale.
- Use direct and simple language.
- Avoid technical jargon and use words respondents can understand.
- Make the statements short to facilitate comprehension and minimize fatigue. In long sentences, people tend to skip parts to get to the end faster, which can lead to misunderstandings. Avoid using more than one sentence.
- Use only one logical phrase per statement. Having more than one creates confusion as to what it is being evaluated.
- Avoid words like “always,” “everybody,” “nobody”. Gross generalizations are not credible. Respondents are likely to skip answering such statements or assume an artificial extreme position.
- Avoid negations and double-negations. They can lead to misinterpretations.
- Balance the number of positive and negative statements. Don’t make them all positive or negatives, which can mislead respondents in one direction or the other.