Leading question definition:
A leading question is a type of question which forces the respondent to answer in a particular way. Often implying or encouraging a certain answer by manipulating the respondent. They are undesirable as they produce inaccurate information. Leading questions can often be answered with a yes or no. (Though not all yes-no questions are leading).
Want to learn more?
Download the entire glossary list in a printable list
|Yes, I want this list|
Pitfalls and examples of leading questions:
Assumption principle: the question implies something is true, even though there's no evidence for it. For example, "how much do you think prices will drop?" already assumes that prices will decrease. This question can only work if it was preceded by a positive answer on "Do you think prices will drop?"
Piggybacking on previous questions: Another form of leading questions is constructing your survey in such a way that the answer to the most poignant question becomes more or less desirable based on their previous answers.
For example, sequence 1:
Are you worried about the number of young people without jobs? - Yes
Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers? - Yes
Do you think there's a lack of discipline in our society? - Yes
Do you think young people could use more authority and leadership in their lives? - Yes
Would you be in favor of reintroducing national service? - Yes
After all those previous questions, a respondent is almost forced to answer yes.
Now consider sequence 2:
Are you worried about the danger of war? - Yes
Are you worried about the growth of armaments? - Yes
Do you think there's a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill? - Yes
Do you think it's wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?- Yes
Would you oppose the reintroduction of national service? - Yes
Also take note of the use of the aforementioned assumption principle in these questions. "Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?" and " are you worried about the growth of armaments?" use emotionally loaded words and elicit a predictable 'Yes' answer from the respondent.
Statistical results based on leading questions are prone to give an unrealistic picture of the consumer opinions or trends.
Do you have any problems with your boss?
This question prompts the person to question their employment relationship. In a subtle way, it raises the prospect that there are problems.
Tell me about your relationship with your boss?
This question does not seek any judgment and there is less implication that there might be something wrong with the relationship.