What are some reasons why respondents lie in surveys?
- The desire to be socially acceptable
- Sensitive questions
- Protecting self-worth
- Wanting to be anonymous
- Trying to be polite
- Intentionally sabotaging results
- Honest mistakes
What’s the most effective and accurate way to gather customer feedback? Most likely, the first thing that pops into your head is through surveys. That’s true, but there’s a catch.
As much as we’d like the opposite to be true, many people lie in surveys. It’s a truth that anyone who conducts surveys, especially with randomly sampled people, should accept. Only then can you start making moves to avoid this as much as possible. The first step to that is by learning the reasons why respondents lie in surveys.
Here, we’ve compiled some reasons for a respondent’s dishonesty in answering surveys. Learn them to know how to optimize your survey for them.
The Desire to be Socially Acceptable
This basic desire can be the death of accuracy for your surveys. In general, people tend to choose the answer that is most socially acceptable. If they know that their answer isn’t the mainstream or politically correct choice, they might opt to lie.
If your survey asks questions like “Do you vote?” or “Do you donate to charity?”, people would most likely answer “yes” even if they don’t. You’ll notice that survey results are often skewed towards the socially acceptable. While it is likely that the majority actually do vote or give to charity, don’t count on the numbers being accurate to the dot.
Sometimes, to get more information, our surveys have to ask sensitive questions. Survey participants won’t always like that. People would usually get defensive when asked questions about sex, religion, politics, drugs, and many others. Can you blame them?
These topics are not easy to talk about, so you shouldn’t expect a random stranger to always be completely honest with you. Instead, keep this fact in mind when you know you’re asking sensitive questions.
Our sense of self-worth is something that we like to protect, and for good reason. Unfortunately, this can sometimes pose a problem to those conducting surveys. There’s a high chance that respondents might put in a little white lie on your survey to protect or boost their sense of self, especially if the survey is anonymous. They could become richer, have a better position, have more cars, or even be taller in your survey than they are in real life. These projections of their ideal self will affect your idea of the demographic your survey is reaching.
Wanting to be Anonymous
Your respondents won’t always trust you. They’ll be concerned about whether their answers really will remain anonymous or confidential. If they don’t feel like their identity is kept safe while answering your survey, they may choose to lie. It’s especially true if their answers are things that could harm or incriminate them if not protected like criminal activity or infidelity.
Trying to be Polite
Politeness is a virtue that’s part of how we deal with strangers. It’s almost always the safer option to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. If the survey asks for their opinion about something, like a new product or web design, they’ll try to be polite and answer positively. Sometimes, the participants would even change their answers to try and help you out.
The problem with this is that you won’t be able to catch any flaws and make improvements.
Intentionally Sabotaging Results
Surveys should practically be harmless to anyone taking them, but there are still people who would try to intentionally sabotage your results. The reason for this maliciousness could be anything. Maybe they don’t like the company, maybe they think it’ll be advantageous for them, and maybe they’re having a bad day. Whatever the reason is, that is the type of respondent you have to actively avoid.
Good thing you can do that by structuring your survey well and choosing your demographic for participants wisely and properly.
Yes, this article is about lying respondents, but we feel it’s only fair to mention that honest mistakes do happen. Your respondents are only human. If they provide erroneous feedback, then maybe they just made a mistake.
A good example is if you ask them to recall something from the past or try to predict their own behavior in the future. People can forget things and they can’t accurately predict the future, even their own. So consider their humanity and leave some room for honest mistakes in your surveys.
Surveys are great tools, and your respondents’ behavior will affect the results directly. Surveys are effective at collecting solid feedback from the customers themselves, but they may also present inaccurate information to the conductor.
Utilizing surveys properly will yield great results for your business. By learning about the reasons why respondents lie in surveys, you could structure your surveys in a way that could avoid them.
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