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The Top 9 Ways To Avoid Acquiescence Bias in Online Surveys

Are you a user researcher for a digital product? Do you sometimes lack the in-person connection while doing your research? Maybe you use online tools to collect data from people? Do you think survey bias ( or acquiescence bias) can distort the opinions, preferences, and responses those people give? 

If so, we have some advice for you.

What Is Acquiescence Bias?

An accurate acquiescence bias definition would be a tendency for survey respondents to agree with research statements, because the research statements themselves are not neutral.

Usersnap example widget showing acquiescence bias

People are inclined to agree with opinions without considering the accuracy of said statements. It presents a problem for researchers who want accurate survey results, and it can lead to poorly generated statistics.

Causes of Acquiescence Bias?

Getting customer feedback influenced by acquiescence bias can undermine your user research results. However, understanding this bias can help you develop more accurate information when doing proper user research.

So, what are some of the causes of acquiescence bias? Here are at least 5 reasons why this bias happens in online surveys:

Different backgrounds

People from different backgrounds have different worldviews. Thus, several components in an individual’s environment disproportionally affect their response to survey questions.

A person’s upbringing and education can affect their understanding of specific topics. Respondents will likely give their answers in the way they are used to in life, thus affecting the accuracy of their responses. This makes it even more difficult to ask a question in a neutral manner.

Impact of ideal self

People have a view of themselves that’s different from their reality. When people are generally satisfied with their lives, they tend to give answers that reflect this type of self-image. The more people feel they are a particular person, the less likely they will present themselves as anyone else.

However, there is still an element to this effect that can alter how people respond to questions. People will react as a way to live up to their own sense of self expectations. 

For example, if a person identifies as an optimist, they might have a hard time answering survey questions in a negative light. They may more likely agree with statements like, “I am very organized.” An attempt to live up to their identity might make them reluctant to give honest survey answers.

Researchers influence on acquiescence bias

Even though researchers want to avoid biasing surveys, they don’t always succeed. Members may show a higher acquiescence bias on interviewer-directed surveys.

When writing surveys, how you ask a question can alter the response. People might also be more inclined to answer your questions if you ask them in a particular tone, including humor or a jovial attitude.

Example survey from Usersnap's customer feedback widgets
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Researchers may also influence their surveys just by the nature of who they are or their personality. To aid their efforts, researchers can use perfect, ready-made templates to help prevent acquiescence bias. 

Lack of intrinsic motivation to engage in a survey

Not all survey participants are serious and might not have a solid motivation to answer questions. Respondents may not be as invested in survey research because they do not feel that their responses will make a difference, or they do not care about the study’s outcome.

Time constraints can also cause a person to give responses whether or not they believe in them. Respondents may assume they are wasting their time and unwilling to answer questions truthfully or with as much information as possible. Some respondents will be more inclined to pursue mental shortcuts when this happens. 

However, with customer satisfaction surveys, the responses can be more meaningful because people might be more engaged in their answers. With these surveys, the answers reflect customers’ perspectives and have higher accuracy.

Social influences on acquiescence bias

Some people will moderately agree with survey statements because they want to be socially appropriate. When participants know that someone will take note of the responses, they could be anxious about how the researcher will utilize the information.

Regardless of a person’s original motivation behind filling their survey, this bias can make them feel compelled to give an answer that differs from their actual opinion. The more socially influenced a person is, the harder it will be for them to stand out when answering online surveys. Research shows acquiescence bias is especially relevant in social media surveys.

9 Preventive Methods in Creating a Biased Survey

The goal of any survey is to obtain the most accurate information, but acquiescence response set bias tends to falsely skew the results to seem more positive. For example, thumbs up or thumbs down response options are crucial in your survey so that respondents can offer non-agreement. 

Here, we highlight nine ways to avoid acquiescence bias in your online surveys. 

Short surveys

Long surveys can lead to acquiescence bias. Long surveys with challenging questions will make respondents want to finish them quickly.

Usersnap widget example of short survey to avoid acquiescence bias

You should only use the maximum amount of survey questions that the respondents will be able to complete. Short, easy surveys can help reduce this factor because they are efficient and take less time to fill out.

Revise your questions

Consider revising your questions to ensure that they accurately describe the topics. Formulating your survey questions can directly affect how the respondents respond to them.

4 types of product survey questions

Ensure that your statements are well-written as less complicated survey questions can be more straightforward and reduce acquiescent responses.

Use intentional language

When developing your survey questions, you should know what they are and how they should sound. Avoid using ambiguous language in your survey responses to ensure that the respondents answer them correctly. 

Be intentional in the way that you word your questions. Think critically about your statement and how it emulates the context to avoid a biased response. As a result, the respondents will be able to answer the questions correctly and be less likely to acquiesce.

Use free-form text boxes

Free-form text boxes make it easier for the respondents to be more honest about their answers. They are quick and convenient, allowing the respondents to convey their feelings more accurately. 

Avoid acquiescence bias with free-form text boxes

Free-form text boxes allow you to capture more in-depth information from the respondents and will enable them to explain themselves better.

Avoid leading questions (#1 acquiescence bias killer!)

Leading questions subjectively influence the results. With leading questions, you may see biased or inaccurate responses because the way that you present your statements might be too direct or suggestive.

Ensure your survey questions are worded neutrally and avoid giving your respondents partial-guidance answers. You could also consider a template that focuses on requesting features.

Help your respondent focus

Many distractions can influence your survey. Thus, your respondents may agree with statements without giving them much thought if they don’t fully comprehend the question.

Feedback-widgets-screen-recordings

You can help your respondents focus by choosing an optimal venue and a time when they don’t feel rushed. Make sure you give your respondent enough time to think about each statement so they can answer them correctly.

Target the right demographic

Your survey questions should be well-targeted to the right demographic. Surely, you’ll want to get participants from different backgrounds to answer the survey questions to evaluate their responses. At the same time, you’ll also want to narrow down your focus a bit to specific folks with specific attributes.

Get the right demographic with Usersnap segmentation

This approach can help you determine whether you accurately represent the measured variables. Collect a diverse range of respondents that might each have distinct opinions and perceptions of different aspects of your survey.

Be neutral

Be sensitive about your role as a surveyor. Your respondents know that there are people behind the survey and may be inclined to respond in a particular way to you. 

When designing survey questions, you should offset any bias that you might have by being neutral. If you feel too invested in the topic, use a third party to help develop the survey questions and ensure that you are strategically inclusive and unbiased.

Be transparent

The key to battling survey anxiety is to be transparent. More transparency in the survey procedure will improve the accuracy of responses. You can achieve this by being clear about how you conduct your survey and who is behind it. 

Poll template for new customer feature requests

Transparency can help increase trust between you and your users, influencing them to respond honestly to your questions.

Why Does It Happen?

Specialists believe acquiescence bias can occur due to politeness. People tend to be hesitant to discuss controversial topics because they don’t want to appear rude. It’s often easier for respondents to agree with survey statements, as they perceive it to be more acceptable than it is for them to disagree. This coincides with the “impact of ideal self” phenomenon discussed above.

It can be challenging to admit that the statement is wrong when a person has an initial response to a question. An individual may also concede to a person in a more significant position. 

If the interviewee believes the researcher is more educated, wise, or of a higher social class, they will be more likely to give them the desired response. Due to this pressure, people might avoid sharing their actual views or giving the answer they think they should provide to fit in. 

Types of Bias in Research

Bias can occur in research in various ways that can distort information. The human elements involved in surveying make it easy for researchers to misinterpret their findings

By looking at the nine core types of response bias driven by the respondent, we can learn how to avoid acquiescence bias and limit the potential influence. Here’s a look at acquiescence bias examples.

Acquiescence bias

Respondents can be influenced by acquiescence bias when they are willing to agree with any survey statement. This influence can cause issues because it means that researchers won’t get a proper representation of the opinions of their participants.

Due to the nature of online surveys, some people will answer questions without putting much thought into them if they don’t think an incorrect response will affect the overall outcome.

Social desirability bias

Some respondents may feel pressured to answer questions that might make them look good in social situations. These individuals will be more likely to agree with a survey statement if it seems nice or shows that they are socially appropriate. 

This kind of bias can happen when a question asks someone about something that might be embarrassing or make them sound bad. For example, if a survey asks about a person’s opinion on gun control, they might be more likely to agree with the statement if they don’t have a firm idea.

Their answer will be agreeable to most of their peers and social norms, but it isn’t the genuine opinion of the interviewee. The respondent might think they will be ostracized if they disagree with their friends.

Habituation

Bias can also occur when interviewees become habituated to the same questions. Habituation occurs when people are repeatedly asked the same questions and become bored with them. 

Respondents can feel tempted to give an answer that is easy to remember rather than a more thought-out response. When this happens, they might not pay as much attention to their responses and be less inclined to consider how accurate they are.

Sponsor bias

In online surveys, sponsors are organizations that pay for surveys. A respondent’s feelings and opinions about that sponsor can cause bias. 

When respondents have a negative opinion of the organization, they may be less likely to agree with their statement on any survey. On the other hand, if they like the sponsor, they might be more likely to give favorable responses that support the sponsor’s agenda.

For example, if a leading retail store sponsors a survey, participants might be inclined to agree with statements suggesting people should buy one of their products. 

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a long recognized and pervasive form of bias that occurs when people are motivated to seek out information that supports their existing beliefs. It occurs when a researcher uses their hypothesis to their advantage when designing surveys. 

Specifically, they are looking for information that supports the idea they have in their mind and might interpret information in a way that supports their beliefs. This method gives them more evidence to support their hypothesis, but it doesn’t provide an accurate representation of public opinion.

Culture bias

The cultural lens on the spectrum of ethnocentricity can cause a bias in how researchers present stats. People who view the world through this lens will take more notice of things that confirm their preconceived notions about a specific population. Researchers can misconstrue these assumptions about motivations and influences. 

When examining research results, it is essential to take a cultural lens into perspective. Researchers can produce more reliable results by reducing false assumptions about respondents and what might influence their responses.

Question-order bias

Respondents will likely answer their second response in a survey based on how they answered the first question. This bias affects the overall accuracy of their reactions because they may not consider different options in future survey questions. They can only answer these questions accurately by evaluating each statement independently and making a choice.

You can combat this by making sure the questions are in the right order, and alleviate this type of bias accordingly.

Usersnap question orders avoid acquiescence bias

Leading questions & wording bias

While leading questions and wording aren’t types of bias, they could influence results. The questionnaire design can lead to a person giving an answer that supports a hypothesis. The respondents may be more likely to agree with a survey question if it suggests they are correct.

The most appropriate product survey questions to ask don’t lead to response but encourage participants to think about the topic more deeply.

The halo effect

This type of bias can occur when a respondent gives incorrect responses due to a single positive attribute. The exact way this happens isn’t fully understood, but it could be related to how an individual feels about something. 

When someone has positive feelings about something, they may be more likely to be influenced by that attitude to answer the survey questions.

How To Use Usersnap To Prevent Acquiescence Bias?

The goal of every researcher is to create accurate and credible info. As an online polling platform, Usersnap has a library of valuable resources that help you create bias-free online surveys.

Usersnap survey templates website offering

The customer feedback software can help you write unbiased questions and track responses. This approach will help you understand how the users’ opinions change over time and generate more accurate answers from your target audience.

If you’re convinced you can also signup immediately and start a trial to see the value yourself.

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Getting feedback has never been easier and we hope you’ve realized that after reading this article. Let us know what you think, your feedback is important.

And if you’re ready to try out a customer feedback software, Usersnap offers a free trial. Sign up today or book a demo with our feedback specialists.