Another experiment embedded in a December 2008 Pew Research poll also resulted in a contrast effect. When people were asked “All in all, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country today?” immediately after having been asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?”; 88% said they were dissatisfied, compared with only 78% without the context of the prior question. Responses to presidential approval remained relatively unchanged whether national satisfaction was asked before or after it. A similar finding occurred in December 2004 when both satisfaction and presidential approval were much higher (57% were dissatisfied when Bush approval was asked first vs. 51% when general satisfaction was asked first).
Questionnaire design is a multistage process that requires attention to many details at once. Designing the questionnaire is complicated because surveys can ask about topics in varying degrees of detail, questions can be asked in different ways, and questions asked earlier in a survey may influence how people respond to later questions. Researchers also are often interested in measuring change over time and therefore must be attentive to how opinions or behaviors have been measured in prior surveys.
To a survey taker, a survey may seem like a simple progression of questions. However, while some surveys can be as short as a single question, others can be complex webs of blocks of questions and conditions that sometimes include actual scripting. And even if they don't go quite that far, many surveys call for navigation rules and other choices that can providenot only a better experience for respondents, but also for more precise data collection, which can be critical when that data later transitions to business analysis tools.
While surveys vary widely in how they are conducted and used, there are a number of components that are common across nearly all surveys. Many of these common features have been studied in extensive detail by survey methodologists, psychologists, statisticians, and many other fields of research. The general process of survey research is outlined in the figure below.