Survey researchers, in developing questions, must bear in mind the respondent's ability to correctly grasp the question and any response categories associated with the question. Comprehension, which is denned in this [Page 118]context as a respondent's ability to accurately understand a question and associated response categories, is crucial to reliable measurement of attitudes and behaviors.
Scholars have identified a number of elements in question wording that can interfere with comprehension: ambiguous language, vague wording, complex sentence structures, and presuppositions about the experiences of the respondent. The consequences of comprehension problems can be severe. If respondents' understanding of the question varies significantly from one respondent to another, the responses could provide a highly distorted picture of an attitude or behavior at the aggregate level.
Researchers have identified a ...
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