English title: The Effects of the Direction of Rating Scales on Survey Responses in a Telephone Survey

Author(s): Ting Yan - Florian Keusch -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2015


Rating scales are used extensively in surveys. One design feature of a rating scale that remains understudied is its direction. A rating scale can run from zero to 10, or from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” It can also run from 10 to zero, or “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” For rating scales with the same number of scale points, the same numerical and verbal labels, the key research question is whether varying the direction of the scale would affect survey responses, and if yes, in what way. Drawing on data from an experiment that varies the direction of an 11-point end-labeled unipolar scale, we find that the direction of the rating scale significantly affects respondents’ ratings of countries that received high ratings. Specifically, ratings for those countries are higher when the scale starts with a high number than when the scale begins with a low number. We also find evidence indicating that the scale-direction effects are due to respondents’ use of anchoring-and-adjustment heuristics instead of satisficing. Implications of these results are discussed.

Volume: 79

Issue: 1

From page no: 145

To page no: 165

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1093/POQ/NFU062

Journal: Public Opinion Quarterly

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