Abstract

Scholars routinely employ rating scales to measure attitudes and other bipolar constructs via questionnaires, and prior research indicates that this is best done using sequences of branching questions in order to maximize measurement reliability and validity. To identify the optimal design of branching questions, this study analyzed data from several national surveys using various modes of interviewing. We compared two branching techniques and different ways of using responses to build rating scales. Three general conclusions received empirical support: (1) after an initial three-option question assessing direction (e.g., like, dislike, neither), respondents who select one of the endpoints should be asked to choose among three levels of extremity, (2) respondents who initially select a midpoint with a precise label should not be asked whether they lean one way or the other, and (3) bipolar rating scales with seven points yield measurement accuracy superior to that of three-, five-, and nine-point scales.

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