Double-barreled question: Examples & how to avoid it

Ioana Sima Ioana Sima · 5 min read

Crafting the right questions is an art. Survey designers must pay close attention to avoid common pitfalls known as a double-barreled question.

These types of questions, although well-intentioned, can induce inaccuracy in survey results. In this article, we will explore the definition of a double-barreled question, its problems, and how to steer away from it to ensure your surveys generate reliable and meaningful data.

double-barreled question

Understanding double-barreled question

A double-barreled question, also known as a compound question, is a survey query that unwittingly combines two or more distinct inquiries into a single sentence. This often results in ambiguity, making it challenging for respondents to provide precise answers.

For example, consider a question like, “Do you find the product useful and affordable?” This question mingles two separate aspects – usefulness and affordability. It is thus impossible for respondents to express their opinions on each factor independently.

Recognizing the impact of ambiguity

The allure of double-barreled questions lies in their brevity and efficiency, as they appear to address multiple aspects in one go. However, this apparent efficiency can lead to significant problems when it comes to data accuracy and interpretation.

Common examples of a double-barreled question

Double-barreled questions often sneak into surveys unnoticed. Below are some typical examples, along with the common characteristics and red flags to watch out for.

“How satisfied are you with the quality and price of our products?”

  • Characteristics: This question combines two aspects – satisfaction with quality and satisfaction with price.

🚩 Red flag: Look for the use of “and” or similar connecting words. If you see two unrelated components linked in a single question, it’s likely double-barreled.

“Did you find the website easy to navigate and informative?”

  • Characteristics: It addresses website navigation and the informativeness of the website – two separate topics.

🚩 Red flag: Connectors that link unrelated elements are indicative of a double-barreled question.

“Do you prefer the current design or the speed of our software?”

  • Characteristics: This question combines preferences for software design and speed, respectively.

🚩 Red flag: Anytime you see a question forcing respondents to choose or comment on two unrelated factors, it’s likely double-barreled.

“How often do you use our mobile app, and what features do you like the most?”

  • Characteristics: It seeks to determine usage frequency and favorite features, which are separate inquiries.
  • 🚩 Red flag: When a question tries to elicit responses on both how often something is used and what is liked about it, it’s a double-barreled question.

“Were you satisfied with the customer service and the response time of our support team?”

  • Characteristics: The question combines satisfaction with customer service and the response time of the support team.

🚩 Red flag: Any question asking for opinions on two distinct aspects within the same sentence should raise suspicion.

To summarize, the common characteristics and red flags you should watch out for when identifying double-barreled questions include:

  • The use of conjunctions (e.g., “and,” “or”) connecting unrelated components 
  • The combination of two separate topics within a single question 
  • The absence of a clear delineation between the elements being addressed
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Why double-barreled question is problematic

Double-barreled questions in surveys are problematic because they generate confusion. The following aspects showcase the unreliable nature of double-barreled questions.

  • Respondents may provide an answer that applies to one part of the question but not the other. This vagueness hinders the interpreter’s ability to draw the right conclusions.
  • Survey data is often analyzed to identify patterns and trends. Double-barreled questions can lead to misinterpretation of results, as the collected data may not accurately represent respondents’ true opinions or experiences.
  • Accurate survey data is the foundation for informed decision-making. Misleading or unreliable data can lead to misguided business strategies, ultimately affecting the organization’s success.
  • Decisions based on inaccurate information can be a waste of time and resources. Companies invest in surveys with the expectation of gaining valuable insights; double-barreled questions can undermine this investment.

The consequences of double-barreled questions in customer feedback

Here are three ways double-barreled questions can affect customer feedback quality, as well as alternatives to overcome these challenges.

Alienated respondents

Double-barreled questions often alienate respondents, as they may not clearly understand which aspect of the question to address.

How to tackle it: Use questions that address particular aspects.

For example, if a question combines feedback on both product quality and customer service, ask two separate questions – one about product quality and another about customer service quality.

Data ambiguity

Data derived from responses to double-barreled questions can be ambiguous, making it challenging to effectively analyze it.

How to tackle it: Break down double-barreled questions into separate questions.

If you need feedback on both the ease of website navigation and the checkout process, ask two distinct questions – one about website navigation and another about the checkout process.

Difficulty in identifying trends

Double-barreled questions make it difficult to identify trends or patterns in customer feedback, which may affect the interpreter’s ability to address recurring issues or make improvements.

How to tackle it: Use focused questions throughout surveys.

You need to ensure that responses are aligned with your research objectives. That will help you identify feedback patterns accurately.

How to avoid double-barreled questions in surveys

We’ve put together some actionable tips to help you craft clear survey questions.

Use simple and clear language

Keep your survey questions straightforward and easy to understand. Avoid complex phrasing, technical jargon, or ambiguous terms that may confuse respondents.

How to achieve it: Before finalizing a question, read it aloud to yourself. If it sounds convoluted or unclear, simplify it for better comprehension.

Avoid leading questions

Ensure your questions are unbiased. Avoid leading questions that suggest a preferred response or influence respondents.

How to achieve it: Review your questions for any wording that might lead respondents in a particular direction. Use neutral language to maintain objectivity.

Provide specific response options

Offer response options that are specific and mutually exclusive. This helps respondents select the most appropriate answer.

How to achieve it: Instead of using vague response options like “Somewhat agree” or “Neutral,” provide options with distinct meanings, such as “Strongly agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly disagree.”

Use closed-ended questions for quantitative data

When collecting quantitative data, opt for closed-ended questions with predefined response choices. This simplifies data analysis and ensures consistency.

How to achieve it: Design multiple-choice or Likert scale questions with a range of response options. For example, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how do you rate your experience with our product? (1 = Bad, 5 = Excellent).”

Pilot test your surveys

Before launching a survey, conduct a pilot test with a small group to identify any confusing or double-barreled questions.

How to achieve it: Gather feedback from the pilot group and make necessary adjustments to question wording and response options.

Examples of well-crafted survey questions

Practice makes perfect, even when it comes to crafting survey questions. However, it is always easier when you can leverage some existing examples to base your question crafting on.

Example 1: Customer satisfaction

  • Survey question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your recent purchase from our store?”
  • Why it works: This question employs a clear and straightforward rating scale, making it easy for respondents to provide feedback. The scale allows for quantifiable data, making it simple to analyze and identify areas for improvement.
  • 👍 Pro tip: Adapt this approach to measure customer satisfaction after specific interactions or purchases.

Example 2: Net promoter score (NPS)

  • Survey question: “How likely are you to recommend our product/service to a friend or colleague? Please rate on a scale of 0 (Not at all likely) to 10 (Extremely likely).”
  • Why it works: This question follows the widely recognized NPS format, which gauges a customer’s loyalty and willingness to recommend. It’s concise, uses a numerical scale, and prompts respondents to provide both a rating and a qualitative response.
  • 👍 Pro tip: Use this question to assess the overall customer advocacy and identify potential promoters or detractors.

Craft precise survey questions to ensure accurate data

Clear and precise survey questions are the foundation of reliable data. They reduce the risk of double-barreled questions and improve the quality of your customer feedback

With accurate data, you can make more informed decisions, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive business success.

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Ioana Sima Ioana Sima

Ioana Sima is the Marketing Manager of TextMagic. She has a master’s degree in architecture and 9+ years of experience in digital marketing. She is in charge of all marketing initiatives at TextMagic and is also overseeing the go-to-market strategy for Touchpoint - the company’s new customer service platform.

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