A Likert scale is a question which is a five-point or seven-point scale. The choices range from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree so the survey maker can get a holistic view of people’s opinions. All Likert scales also include a mid-point e.g neither agree nor disagree, for those who are neutral on the subject matter. It was developed in 1932 by the social psychologist Rensis Likert.
We can all agree that there’s no single question that designates someone as politically liberal or conservative. Political affiliation is complicated—a person who is liberal on matters of health care could be conservative on questions of international aid.
So instead of asking one question, you measure how much people agree or disagree with various statements about political policy with a rating scale. Then when you combine or average a person’s responses, you get a more accurate measure of their liberal or conservative opinions.
In short, a Likert scale is the result of the survey. The series of statements and response-types are a methodology for scaling—or measuring—attitudes. A Likert scale is a question which contains 5 or 7 response options. The choices range from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree so the survey maker can get a holistic view of people’s opinions and their level of agreement. All Likert scale survey questions also include a mid-point, for those who are neutral on the subject matter.
Okay, so how do you craft a Likert scale that gets you results? That’s the hardest part. But not to fear, these 4 steps will help you get it right:
Once you’ve crafted the questionnaire for a Likert scale survey, most of the hard work is already done. If the statements in your questionnaire measure a particular concept when combined, that’s a Likert scale. Averages and standard deviations among your participants describe the data.
If you have used Likert-type items in a survey, then averages, medians, and frequencies are the tools you need for analysis. The tendencies in the data will give you answers to the questions that prompted this survey.
Although Likert scale surveys are relatively simple, there’s a big weakness to keep in mind when interpreting your results: respondent biases.
As with most surveys, social desirability bias can affect the reliability of your Likert scale survey. Even when you tell respondents their responses will remain anonymous, many people still try to give socially acceptable answers rather than being honest. This can be minimized with an even-number scale, which prevents people from sitting on the fence.
Likert scale surveys are particularly susceptible to central tendency bias: people avoid choosing the most extreme responses such as Very Helpful or Strongly Disagree. You can reduce the effect of this bias with some clear definitions, such as “In this survey, Very Helpful means you got everything you needed from our customer service agent.”
At the other end of the spectrum is extreme response bias. This happens when people only choose the extreme options. There are several causes of this, including cultural attitudes and IQ. But the one you have control over is the wording of the question. Use neutral language and don’t ask leading questions—it’ll impact your data analysis.
Leading questions ‘lead’ respondents to the survey creator’s possible answer or desired outcome. This creates bias. For example, in 2014, the Scottish government wanted to ask, “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” The electoral commission deemed this to be a leading question and recommended, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
People tend to agree with statements to please others. This is known as acquiescence response bias—otherwise known as the when-in-doubt-just-agree bias There are two ways to minimize its effect:
1) Phrase your statements as questions
2) Include a positive and negative statement and evaluate the pairs for consistency.
Likert scale surveys are overall, pretty simple to create, easy to complete, and provide highly reliable data. They allow you to capture the variation and complexity of people’s attitudes, giving you deeper insights into what people are thinking and feeling.
Getting your Likert scale online survey right means loads of useful data to help you get to know people better. Ready to get started? We can help you create a survey today!