From the “two thumbs” system popularized by Roger Ebert to the 1-5 star system used by companies from AAA to Zagat, we’re all familiar with many different rating scales. These scales are often used to let the public know the quality of something; two thumbs up means a movie may be worth your time, while 1 star means you should probably steer clear of that restaurant offering so-called fine dining. But what about when you want to get the public’s opinion on something, rather than give your own? This is where the Likert scale comes into play.
While it’s easy to remember the survey name “likert” because it’s often used as a measurement of how much someone “liked” something, it’s actually named after American social scientist Rensis Likert, who devised the psychometric approach in 1932 for conducting social and educational research. It’s been around ever since—and today Likert-type scales are considered some of the best survey tools for researching popular opinions, whether it’s in the form of a customer satisfaction survey or a marketing research survey.
In a Likert scale, a person selects one statement among several that reflects their perceived quality of a product, service, or other item. The most effective Likert rating scales generally consist of 5-7 balanced responses that people can choose from, often with a neutral midpoint. It’s very common for companies to use Likert scales when they want to evaluate a customer’s level of satisfaction during a recent experience.
Later on, you’ll see many examples of Likert survey scales that you can use to craft your own. But, just so we’re on the same page from here on out, here’s a typical question using a 5-point Likert scale:
SurveyLegend provides quality support to its customers:
3–Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Hint: The correct answer is 5…at least that’s what our customers are saying!
Unlike some types of surveys, Likert rating scale questions use a universal method of collecting data, so the results can be easily understood. Responses on a Likert scale give quantitative value to qualitative data, making it easy for researchers to draw conclusions and then create reports and graphs for further analysis.
In addition, because questions using the Likert method follow a scale, respondents don’t have to answer yes or no, or either-or; instead, they can choose to be neutral.
Finally, Likert scale questions eliminate the need to ask people open-ended or fill-in-the-blank questions which are more difficult to analyze because the answers haven’t been configured in advance.
Most researchers agree that the best Likert scales are the 5-point and 7-point varieties. This simply refers to how many responses the person has to choose from. Most Likert scales are going to be odd-numbered, with an equal number of positive and negative responses on either side of a neutral response. There are exceptions, though; some Likert scales will simply go from “poor” to “excellent” as you’ll see in one of our examples below.
So why are 5-point and 7-point Likert scales considered ideal? Well, if you offer less than five options, online survey takers may be limited in their responses, resorting to picking the “most” applicable answer. This deprives you of their true opinion. On the other hand, if you go above seven, respondents may feel overwhelmed or annoyed and just pick a random answer to move along quickly.
That all depends on who you ask! While almost everyone agrees that the Likert rating scale provides ordinal data, the argument over whether it also provides interval data rages on. You can see this first-hand on this ResearchGate forum, where us survey geeks and other researchers have been arguing over it since 2014!
Here’s how we think it shakes out: Likert survey scales provide ordinal data, as the results have natural, ordered categories representing someone’s preferences, i.e., we know that a 4 is better than a 3. However, because we don’t know exactly what constitutes a 3 versus a 4 in someone’s mind, it’s not interval data.
That said, when a survey has enough questions, many researchers use the data to come up with reliable averages, which means at the very least, likert scales “approach” the definition of interval data. We think Dr. David L. Morgan from the Portland State University’s Sociology Department summed up the interval nature of Likert scales in the forum when he stated, “The key point here is to use multiple items, where any one of them may be too weak to provide an adequate measure, but the combination of them is much stronger.”
Ultimately, of course, it’s up to you how you want to use your Likert scale data!
Once you see our Likert scale examples, you’ll have a better idea of how to create them and how to write survey questions. But first, there are five important things to remember:
It’s often not enough to ask one general question about a particular topic, opinion, or experience, as it won’t be enough to give you the full picture. Asking multiple questions remedies this, taking into consideration all of the factors that could have contributed to this response.
Mixing different scales within your surveys can cause respondent confusion. Bonus: Using only one scale will also make your final analysis that much easier.
Do not simply attach a number to possible responses. Always include wording on your scale question, otherwise online survey takers may confuse which numbers are positive and which are negative, skewing your results.
For best results, stay away from survey questions that may lead people to answer a certain way or force them to choose between extremes as it can skew your results.
Creating a survey doesn’t need to be complicated; in fact, the best survey questions are concise and to-the-point. Long, complex questions tend to lose readers or test their patience, and inadvertently asking two questions in one can leave respondents unsure of how to answer.
Below are a number of Likert scale examples for consideration or inspiration when designing your next professional online survey or online poll. Please note that the numbers in the answers indicate the relative position of items, but not the magnitude of difference. You do not have to include numbers in your survey questions if you prefer not to.
There is much more to know and consider when using Likert scale questions in your surveys. Check out our guide to learn more about Likert scale questions and how to use and analyze their data.
SurveyLegend offers the best online survey software, with countless survey samples and templates. We let you easily create Likert scale questions that are responsive, beautifully adjusting even to the small mobile phone screens. You literally have an unlimited number of Likert scale options and response choices, and can even add imagery to your Likert scale questions.
There are many professional things you need to know and consider, when using Likert Scale questions in your surveys. Have a look at the following guide, to read more about Likert Scale questions, and learn how to use and analyse their data.
Learn more about Likert Scale questions…
With SurveyLegend, you easily can make Likert Scale questions which are responsive and can beautifully adjust even to small screen of mobile phones. You can have literally unlimited number of response choices, and even add pictures to your Likert Scale questions. Have a look at our user guide, and learn more about all your legendary powers ; )
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