Designing Survey Questions and Choosing Survey Formats

Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer Reference Sozialwissenschaften book series (SRS)


This chapter introduces readers to the rules of designing a survey questionnaire. It highlights the need for following these rules by outlining the importance of validity and reliability and by highlighting the pitfalls that may and do arise if the rules are neglected. Furthermore, the chapter outlines the four main modes currently used in fielding surveys: face-to-face, telephone, online, and mail surveys. Each format is shortly presented before strengths and weaknesses are discussed. Finally, the chapter presents an outlook on the future of survey research.


Survey design Questionnaire Survey format Research design Mixed-mode 


  1. Antoni, Manfred, Basha Vicari, and Daniel Bela. 2014. Interviewers’ influence on bias in reported income. Conference presentation at AAPOR, Anaheim. Accessed 3 Jan 2017.
  2. Baur, Nina, and Jörg Blasius, eds. 2014. Handbuch Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.Google Scholar
  3. Berinsky, Adam J. 2004. Can we talk? Self-presentation and the survey response. Political Psychology 25(4): 643–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blaydes, Lisa, and Rachel M. Gillum. 2013. Religiosity-of-interviewer effects: Assessing the impact of veiled enumerators on survey response in Egypt. Politics and Religion 6(3): 459–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bosnjak, Micheal, Tanja Dannwolf, Tobias Enderle, Ines Schauer, Bella Struminskaya, Angela Tanner, and Kai W. Weyandt. 2017. Establishing an open probability-based mixed-mode panel of the general population in Germany. (The GESIS Panel.). Social Science Computer Review 36(1). Accessed 30 Oct 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clarke, Harold D., Matthew Goodwin, and Paul Whiteley. 2017. Brexit: Why Britain voted to leave the European Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cook, Timothy E., and Paul Gronke. 2005. The skeptical American: Revisiting the meanings of trust in government and confidence in institutions. Journal of Politics 67(3): 784–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Echterhoff, Gerald. 2013. Quantitative Erhebungsmethoden. In Forschungsmethoden in Psychologie und Sozialwissenschaften – für Bachelor (2nd Edition), eds. Walter Hussy, Margrit Schreier, and Gerald Echterhoff, 55–114. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer VS.Google Scholar
  9. Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2012. Field experiments: Design, analysis, and interpretation. New York: WW Norton.Google Scholar
  10. GESIS. Eurobarometer. 72.4. (October/November 2009). ZA-No. 4994.[vol]=2633&tx_eurobaromater_pi1[pos1]=1512. Accessed 10 Oct 2017.Google Scholar
  11. Groves, Robert M, Floyd J. Fowler, Mick P. Couper, James M. Lepkowski, Eleanor Singer, and Roger Tourangeau, 2009. Survey methodology. New York: Wileys.Google Scholar
  12. Hannagan, Rebecca J., Levente Littvay, and Sebastian Adrian Popa. 2014. Theorizing sex differences in political knowledge: Insights from a twin study. Politics & Gender 10(1): 89–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harteveld, Eelco, Tom van der Meer, and Catherine E. De Vries. 2013. In Europe we trust? Exploring three logics of trust in the European Union. European Union Politics 14(4): 542–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Herkenhoff, Anna-Lena. 2016. Neurechte Netzwerke und die Initiative “Ein Prozent für unser Land”. In Neue soziale Bewegung von rechts? Zukunftsängste. Abstieg der Mitte. Ressentiments – Eine Flugschrift, Eds. Alexander Häusler and Fabian Virchow, 73–83. Hamburg: VSA Verlag.Google Scholar
  15. Hiscox, Michael J. 2006. Through a glass and darkly: Attitudes toward international trade and the curious effects of issue framing. International Organization 60(3): 755–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Institut für Demoskopie (IfD) Allensbach. 2014. “Zunehmende Entfremdung”. Eine Dokumentation des Beitrags von Prof. Renate Köcher in der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung Nr. 90 vom 16. April 2014. Accessed 3 Oct 2017.
  17. Jacob, Rüdiger, Andreas Heinz, and Jean Philippe Décieux. 2013. Umfrage: Einführung in die Methoden der Umfrageforschung. Oldenbourg: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  18. Kinder, Donald R. 1981. Presidents, prosperity, and public opinion. Public Opinion Quarterly 45(1): 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Klašnja, Marko, Joshua A. Tucker, and Kevin Deegan-Krause. 2016. Pocketbook vs. sociotropic corruption voting. British Journal of Political Science 46(1): 67–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Krosnick, Jon A., and Duane F. Alwin. 1987. An evaluation of a cognitive theory of response-order effects in survey measurement. Public Opinion Quarterly 51(2): 201–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krysan, Maria. 1998. Privacy and the expression of white racial attitudes: A comparison across three contexts. Public Opinion Quarterly 62(4): 506–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Leech, Beth L., and Kenneth Goldstein. 2002. Symposium: Interview methods in political science. PS: Political Science and Politics 35(4): 663–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McLaren, Lauren. 2006. Identity, interests and attitudes toward European integration. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nelson, Thomas E., Rosalee A. Clawson, and Zoe M. Oxley. 1997. Media framing of a civil liberties conflict and its effect on tolerance. American Political Science Review 91(3): 567–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. 1974. The spiral of silence: A theory of public opinion. Journal of Communication 24(2): 43–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Payne, Stanley. 1951. The art of asking questions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Pelham, Brett W, and Hart Blanton. 2011. Conducting research in psychology: Measuring the weight of smoke. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  28. PEW Global Attitudes. 2014. Faith and skepticism about trade, foreign investment. Last modified September 16, 2014. Accessed 11 Aug 2017.
  29. Schlipphak, Bernd. 2015. Measuring attitudes toward regional organizations outside Europe. The Review of International Organizations 10(3): 351–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schnell, Rainer. 2012. Survey-Interviews: Methoden standardisierter Befragung. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer VS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schnell, Rainer, Paul B. Hill, and Elke Esser. 2011. Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung. München: Oldenbourg.Google Scholar
  32. Schumann, Siegfried. 2012. Repräsentative Umfrage. München: Oldenbourg.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Toshkov, Dimiter. 2016. Research design in political science. London: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tourangeau, Roger, Eleanor Singer, and Stanley Presser. 2003. Context effects in attitude surveys: Effects on remote items and impact on predictive validity. Sociological Methods & Research 31(4): 486–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tourangeau, Roger, Lance J. Rips, and Kenneth Rasinski. 2012. The psychology of survey response. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Travis, Alan. 2017. Can we still trust public opinion polls after 2015, Brexit and trump? The Guardian, May 8. Accessed 10 Aug 2017.
  37. Zaller, John, and Stanley Feldman. 1992. A simple theory of the survey response: Answering questions versus revealing preferences. American Journal of Political Science 36(3): 579–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zeit Online. 2017. 7.5 Millionen Deutsche sind Analphabeten. Zeit Online, February 28, 2011. Accessed 11 Aug 2017.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PolitikwissenschaftWestfälische Wihelms-Universität MünsterMünsterDeutschland

Personalised recommendations