Double-Barreled Questions: The Hidden Bias In Your Survey Results

Double-barreled questions are the most common culprits behind data disasters. This elusive survey trap can severely distort your findings. So, in this blog, we'll see why double-barreled questions are so problematic and how you can avoid them.
Double Barreled Questions

Imagine you're trying to gather valuable data for your business or research project. You've crafted what you think is the perfect survey. But, you find out later that your results are confusing, contradictory, or don't provide value.

The double-barreled question is one of the most common culprits behind this data disaster. This elusive survey trap can severely distort your findings. It can do so often without you even realizing it.

In this blog, we'll dive deep into the world of double-barreled questions. We'll understand what they are, why they're so problematic, and how to avoid them in your future surveys.

So, let's get started!

What Are Double-Barreled Questions?

Double-barreled questions, or compound or double-direct questions, are survey questions that address two or more topics or issues in a single question. It can make it difficult to interpret results as it's unclear which aspect of the question the respondent is addressing.

Double Barreled Questions

The primary issue with double-barreled questions is they force respondents to give a single answer to many issues.

Thus, it may not reflect their opinions or experiences, can lead to misleading or incomplete data, and hinders the effectiveness of your survey.

Examples Of Double-Barreled Questions

Here are a few examples of double-barreled questions to help illustrate the concept:

Example 1

"How satisfied are you with our SaaS platform's ease of use and customer support?"

In this question, the respondent is asked about two aspects of the SaaS platform: ease of use and customer support.

These two factors may not be related, and the respondent's satisfaction with one aspect might not be the same as their satisfaction with the other.

Combining these two topics into a single question makes it difficult for the respondent. They may not know which aspect of the question they're addressing in their answer.

Example 2

"Do you agree that the company's remote work policy and professional development opportunities meet your expectations?"

This question combines two distinct aspects of the employee experience:

  • The remote work policy
  • The professional development opportunities offered by the company

If an employee is happy or unhappy about working from home, it doesn't necessarily mean they feel the same way about their pay or any other growth opportunity. So, it is important to ask separate questions to understand their feelings about each topic.

When you ask separate questions, you can dive deeper into each topic. For instance, if an employee is unhappy about their recent performance review, you can follow up with another survey (or a separate section within the same survey).

This way, you can find out exactly what aspects of their review are causing their dissatisfaction and work on ways to make improvements.

Importance Of Avoiding Double-Barreled Questions

Here are 5 reasons why it's important to avoid =double-barreled questions in communication:

1. Accurate Data Collection

Avoiding double-barreled questions is vital to ensure accurate data collection. Companies must understand customers' needs and pain points to improve their products and services.

Then you can use accurate user feedback to make data-driven decisions.

Double-barreled questions can lead to ambiguous or conflicting data, which makes it challenging to pinpoint specific areas for improvement.

Asking clear and focused questions can help gather actionable insights. It helps drive better decision-making and optimize their offerings.

2. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is a key driver of success for any SaaS company. Avoiding double-barreled questions can help businesses gain more insight into customers. They can understand what their customers like and dislike about their product.

You can use accurate customer satisfaction knowledge to make targeted improvements. It leads to higher customer satisfaction and increased customer loyalty and retention.

3. Improved Employee Engagement

Employees are the backbone of any successful SaaS company. Understanding their needs and concerns is crucial for maintaining a productive workforce.

Double-barreled questions can create problems when you try to assess employee satisfaction, which makes it difficult to identify and address issues in the workplace.

Focused questions target specific aspects of the employee experience. This way, companies can gather accurate feedback, make meaningful improvements, and foster a positive work environment.

4. Clearer Communication With Stakeholders

Companies must communicate with investors, partners, and other stakeholders regularly. They must inform involved parties about the company's performance and future plans.

Using double-barreled questions in surveys or questionnaires can lead to unclear or misleading data. Thus, it can damage a company's credibility. It hinders the company's ability to make a strong case for continued investment or collaboration.

Companies can present a clear and accurate picture of their performance, boosting stakeholder confidence and trust by avoiding double-barreled questions.

5. Efficient Use Of Resources

Time and resources are often limited for SaaS companies, making it essential to use them. Double-barreled questions can lead to wasted resources. The data collected may not provide the insights needed to make informed decisions.

Companies need to craft well-structured and focused questions. This way, they can use their resources to maximize their data collection efforts.

Different Scenarios On The Use of Double-Barreled Questions

Double-barreled questions are generally discouraged as they create confusion and yield unreliable data. But, there may be certain scenarios where they can be used or avoided. Let's explore a few examples.

Scenarios Where You Shouldn’t Use Double-Barreled Questions

Here are 3 scenarios where you shouldn't use double-barreled questions:

1. Customer Satisfaction Surveys

When gathering customer feedback about your products or services, it's crucial to have clear, unambiguous data. Double-barreled questions can make it difficult to pinpoint specific areas for improvement. It may lead to misinformed decision-making.

Find out how to create perfect customer satisfaction surveys.

2. Employee Engagement Surveys

To assess employee satisfaction and identify areas for improvement, it's essential to ask focused questions that address specific aspects of the work experience. Double-barreled questions can muddy the waters. Organizations may find it harder to understand employees' opinions and needs.

3. Market Research Surveys

Companies conduct market research with a certain goal in mind. The goal is to gather precise insights on

  • Product development
  • Marketing strategies
  • Competitor analysis

Double-barreled questions can introduce confusion and uncertainty. Thus, they may undermine the value of the collected data.

Scenarios Where You Might Use Double-Barreled Questions

Here are 3 scenarios where you might use double-barreled questions:

1. Informal Conversations Or Casual Polls

Using a double-barreled question may not be as problematic in a more casual setting or conversation. The goal is not to collect precise, actionable data. But it's important to remember that the answers might still be somewhat ambiguous and unsuitable for data-driven decisions.

2. Exploratory Research

You may use double-barred questions during the early stages of research to identify areas of interest and concern. These areas can then be explored in more detail using focused questions. However, this approach should be used cautiously and only as a starting point for further investigation.

In rare cases, the topics addressed in a double-barreled question may be closely related. The combined question should not create confusion for respondents. It is an exception rather than a rule.

Separating the topics into distinct questions is still preferable to ensure clarity and accuracy.

In general, it's best to avoid double-barreled questions whenever possible. It is especially true when precise, reliable data is crucial for decision-making.

You must focus on clear, single-topic questions. This way, you can get accurate insights to inform your business decisions and improve customer satisfaction.

Best Practices To Eliminate Double-Barreled Questions

Eliminating double-barreled questions from your surveys and questionnaires is essential for collecting clear, accurate, and actionable data. Here are some best practices to help you avoid and eliminate these problematic questions:

1. Keep Questions Focused And Specific

Ensure that each question addresses only one topic or issue. It will make it easier for respondents to provide clear and concise answers, reducing the risk of ambiguous data.

2. Break Down Complex Questions

Consider dividing a question into separate questions if it addresses multiple topics or issues. It will allow respondents to provide detailed and accurate feedback on each aspect of the topic. It will lead to more reliable data.

3. Review And Revise

Review each question in your survey to identify any potential double-barreled questions. If you spot any, revise them to ensure they focus on only one topic at a time. Request feedback from colleagues or other experts to ensure the questions are unambiguous.

4. Test Your Questions

Before distributing your survey or questionnaire, test it with a small sample of your target audience. It will help identify any double-barreled questions that may have been overlooked. It'll provide an opportunity to make necessary revisions.

5. Keep Response Options Consistent

Ensure that response options (e.g., Likert scale, multiple choice, etc.) are consistent and appropriate for each question. It will help respondents accurately convey their opinions or experiences.

6. Prioritize Clarity And Simplicity

Strive for simplicity and clarity in your question phrasing. Avoid jargon, technical terms, or complex language that might confuse respondents. Simple, clear language is less likely to result in double-barreled questions and improves overall survey comprehension.

7. Use Open-Ended Questions Judiciously

Open-ended questions can be valuable for gathering qualitative insights but should not be used as a workaround for avoiding double-barreled questions. If a double-barreled question is better addressed in an open-ended format, consider breaking it down into multiple open-ended questions focusing on particular topics.

8. Learn From Existing Surveys

Review well-constructed surveys and questionnaires in your industry or field to gain insights into how questions can be effectively phrased and structured. It can help you identify potential pitfalls and improve your survey design.

By following these best practices, you can eliminate double-barreled questions from your surveys and questionnaires, ensuring that the data you collect is accurate, reliable, and actionable. It will ultimately help you make more informed decisions and better meet the needs of your customers, employees, and other stakeholders.


Double-barreled questions can negatively impact the quality and reliability of data collected through surveys and questionnaires. To gather accurate and actionable insights that can inform decision-making, improve customer satisfaction, and drive business success, it is crucial to steer clear of these problematic questions.

Implementing the best practices discussed in this blog will help you:

  • Create well-structured and focused surveys that effectively address single topics
  • Avoid the pitfalls associated with double-barreled questions

As you continue to develop and refine your survey design skills, always prioritize clarity, simplicity, and specificity in your questions. This approach will help ensure that your data is valuable and actionable. It'll allow you to make informed decisions and enhance the experiences of your customers, employees, and stakeholders.

Remaining vigilant and committed to crafting high-quality surveys can help you successfully navigate the challenges of survey design. This way, you can make the most of the invaluable insights your respondents offer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What do double-barreled questions mean in MCQ?

Double-barreled questions in MCQs refer to questions that combine two or more distinct issues within a single query. These questions can confuse respondents, as they may not be able to address all aspects appropriately, potentially leading to unclear or inaccurate responses.

2. What are leading vs double-barreled questions?

Leading questions subtly guide respondents toward a specific answer, while double-barreled questions address multiple issues in one query. Both question types can lead to biased results for different reasons: leading questions by influencing responses and double-barreled questions by creating ambiguity.

3. Why are double-barreled questions biased?

Double-barreled questions are biased because they force respondents to give a single answer for multiple unrelated issues. It can lead to inaccurate data, as respondents may agree with one aspect but not the other.

The combined question format prevents a clear understanding of individual opinions, ultimately skewing the results.

About the author
Arnob Mukherjee

Arnob Mukherjee

Building Olvy

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