Attitude Surveys, The Likert Scale and Semantic Differentials

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Attitude is a group of opinions, values and dispositions to act associated with a particular object or concept.  Measuring attitude in your survey can be difficult because it requires a series of questions to evaluate it effectively.  Here are some examples of subjects that an attitude survey might attempt to measure.

  • Attitude on Immigration
  • Attitude on Space Exploration
  • Attitude on Stem Cell Research

The series of questions developed to assess attitude is commonly done in a “Likert Scale.”1   This scale is a set of opinion statements which when combined, provide information about an attitude.  Here’s an example of a series of questions in a Likert Scale format found in a Customer Attitude Survey:

When using this format in self-completing survey questionnaires, there are four factors that influence the responses:

1)    There is bias to respond with ‘agree’ categories rather than ‘disagree.’

2)    There is bias to select categories to the left of the scale rather than the right side.

3)    There is a tendency to select responses towards the center of the scale and avoid extremes of “strongly” agree or disagree.

4)    There is a tendency for respondents to fall into a pattern of response such as all “agree” or “no opinion.”

You can also use a Semantic Differential Scale2 to assist in your determination of attitude.  The challenge here is to define meaningful end points such as “Traditional food to Nouveau Cuisine” as shown in the sample below from a Product Survey.

1Rensis Likert (1932) “A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes”

2 Charles E. Osgood (1956), “Method and Theory in Experimental Psychology”

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