Leading Questions: What They Are & Why They Matter [+ Examples]

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Alana Chinn
Alana Chinn



You just attended an event, and you didn't have a great time. A few days later, you receive a survey asking "How much did you enjoy our fantastic event?" This is a leading question.

leading questions being asked by researcher conducting a survey

Leading questions push respondents to answer in a certain way, often influenced by biases and personal opinions. Like the question above — it implies that everyone who attended the event agrees that it was fantastic.

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In this article, we'll discuss what leading questions are and why it's important to keep an eye out for them in your next survey.

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Typically found in surveys, leading questions usually contain information that a researcher wants to either confirm or deny. However, rather than allowing the respondent to answer the question honestly, these types of questions nudge them in a particular direction.

what are Leading Questions

Because leading questions draw from assumptions and biases, they tend to lead to unreliable survey results — and that can be bad for business.

Here's why. Let's say you're trying to gauge how satisfied your customers are with your product. You run a survey and include questions that basically reference your product as the best thing since sliced bread.

Like: "How satisfied are you with how easy and simple it is to use our product?"

It's going to be pretty hard to get candid feedback from anyone who may have been struggling to use your product. And this type of feedback is extremely valuable because there may be others who feel the same (and who are churning because of it).

That's why you need to make sure your survey questions are well-crafted in order to receive optimal results.

OK, let's review the different types of leading questions to look out for.

Many leading questions are either based on assumptions, interrelated statements, direct implications, or coercion. For example, 'You're a satisfied customer, aren't you?' is a leading question that uses coercive language to support customer satisfaction.

The image below highlights the most common types of leading questions.

Types of Leading Questions

We'll review each in more detail below.

Questions Based on Assumptions

Assumption-based questions presume that a respondent thinks or feels a certain way about a product, service, or business process. And that thought or feeling is implied within the framing of the question.

These types of questions tend to lean positive and use phrases like:

  • How much do you like x?
  • How delighted are you with y?

Even if the underlying goal is to test an assumption, this may push respondents to answer in the direction of that assumption.

Questions Based on Interrelated Statements

Questions that use interrelated statements include a statement of fact or opinion, followed by a question that prompts a related answer from the respondent.

These types of questions tend to use phrases like:

  • [Insert statement]. What are your thoughts?
  • [Insert statement]. How do you feel about this?

Questions in this format can be useful to measure how much a respondent agrees or disagrees with a particular statement. But, if framed incorrectly, it may also encourage the customer to answer based on the information provided in the original statement.

Questions Based on Direct Implications

Direct implication questions require the respondent to determine the future implications of a present attitude or behavior — whether it applies to them or not.

These types of questions tend to use phrases like:

  • If you liked x, should we do it again?
  • If you subscribed to x, will you be subscribing to y?

But what happens if the respondent didn't "like" or "subscribe" to x? It makes it difficult for them to answer the question accurately.

Questions Based on Coercion

Questions that include coercive language usually force the respondent to affirm or agree with something.

These types of questions tend to use phrases like:

  • You enjoyed x, didn't you?
  • Our product is great, right?

Coercive questions are among the biggest contributors to survey bias because they sway respondents to provide a predetermined answer. There's little room for people to answer differently (and comfortably).

Leading Questions vs. Loaded Questions

Loaded questions are often mentioned along with leading questions when talking about things to avoid. Loaded questions are trick questions that contain assumptions about the respondent within the questions and often have exaggerations or emotionally charged language.

Example of a loaded question:

"Do you find it difficult to hide your imposter syndrome?"

This question implies that the respondent has imposter syndrome. The assumptions made asking loaded questions can put respondents off.

Now, let's get into a few examples of leading questions.

Leading Questions Examples

Examples of Leading Questions

Here are some examples of the different types of leading questions that may unintentionally end up in your surveys (also highlighted in the image above).

Example 1: Assumptions

Question: "How excited are you about our new product?"

What makes it leading?

This question assumes that the respondent feels excited about the product.

Example 2: Interrelated Statements

Question: "Most people are excited about our new product. Are you?"

What makes it leading?

This question may prompt a particular answer (in this case, yes) based on the closely connected statement that most people are excited about the new product.

Example 3: Direct Implications

Question: "If you're excited about our new product, should we offer another version?"

What makes it leading?

This question forces respondents to consider the future implications of whether or not they feel excited about the new product.

Example 4: Coercion

Question: "You're excited about our new product, right?"

What makes it leading?

This question compels the respondent to agree that they're excited about the product.

But leading questions aren't all bad. In fact, they're commonly leveraged in marketing, sales, and legal contexts.

Example 5: Marketing

Marketers may use leading questions to help promote a product or service.

Question: "Customers love our new e-book. Are you ready to download a copy?"

Why It's Used:
This statement establishes that other customers love their book to help persuade new customers to purchase.

Example 6: Sales

Salespeople may use leading questions to persuade a prospective customer to buy a product or service.

Question: "When would you like to start your subscription with us?"

Why It's Used:

This question corners recipients into starting a subscription by assuming they're already on board to sign up.

Example 7: Legal

Lawyers may use leading questions to nudge the case in a specific direction (i.e., in their favor).

Question: "How late did the defendant get home that night?"

Why It's Used:

This leading question assumes the defendant got home late, which plays into whatever strategy the legal team has.

Still, you'll want to avoid using leading questions in your surveys. Let's discuss how to do that next.

How to Avoid Leading Questions

The best way to avoid leading questions is usually by reframing the question through a more objective lens.

How to Avoid Leading Questions

For example, as shown in the image above, the assumption-based question: "How excited are you about our new product?" would be better framed as "How would you rate our new product?"

Why? By removing the assumption that the customer is excited about the new product, you give the customer the freedom to rate the product honestly — even if that means they're not that jazzed about it.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to avoid writing leading questions:

  • Are my own personal assumptions or biases present?
  • Am I forcing a respondent to answer in a specific way?
  • Are the respondent's thoughts or feelings implied?
  • Am I asking the respondent to consider something they may not agree with?
  • Do I feel strongly in one direction about this subject, and does it show?

Don't Lead Your Customers On

Businesses thrive off of customer feedback. And it's important to give your customers the opportunity to communicate with you openly and honestly.

The bottom line: Leading questions may work for marketing, sales, and legal, but try to leave them out of your customer surveys.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2022 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Topics: Survey Creation

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