Leading question

A leading question is a type of inquiry which forces the respondent to answer in a particular way, often by implying or encouraging a certain answer by manipulating him. They are undesirable as they produce inaccurate information. These inquiries can often be answered with a yes or no. (Though not all yes-no inquiries are leading).


This guide will teach you:

  1. Pitfalls and examples of leading questions
  2. Other examples

1. Pitfalls and examples of leading questions

  • Assumption principle: the inquiry implies something is true, even though there's no evidence for it. For example, "how much do you think prices will drop?" already assumes that prices will decrease. This inquiry can only work if it was preceded by a positive answer on "Do you think prices will drop?"
  • Piggybacking on previous inquiries: Another form of this inquiry type is constructing your survey in such a way that the answer to the most poignant inquiry becomes more or less desirable based on their previous answers.
  • For example, sequence 1: Are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?   - Yes
    Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers? - Yes
    Do you think there's a lack of discipline in our society? - Yes
    Do you think young people could use more authority and leadership in their lives? - Yes
    Would you be in favor of reintroducing the national service? - Yes

After all those previous inquiries, a respondent is almost forced to answer yes.

  • Now consider sequence 2: Are you worried about the danger of war? - Yes
    Are you worried about the growth of armaments? - Yes
    Do you think there's a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill? - Yes
    Do you think it's wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?- Yes
    Would you oppose the reintroduction of national service? - Yes 

(Example taken from Yes, Prime Minister S01E02, "The Ministerial Broadcast")


The use of the aforementioned assumption principle in these inquiries. "Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?" and " are you worried about the growth of armaments?" use emotionally loaded words and elicit a predictable 'Yes' answer from the respondent.


Statistical results based on leading inquiries are prone to give an unrealistic picture of consumer opinions or trends.

2. Other examples

Do you have any problems with your boss?

->This inquiry prompts the person to question their employment relationship. In a subtle way, it raises the prospect that there are problems.

Tell me about your relationship with your boss?

->This inquiry does not seek any judgment and there is less implication that there might be something wrong with the relationship.

leading questions- example


Check out the entire glossary list in a printable list.

What's next?

  • A double-barreled question is composed of more than two separate issues or topics, but which can only have one answer. It is also known as a compound or double-direct inquiry. These inquiries occur mostly in two very different circumstances: in research and in court.
  • Survey bias means that the inquiry is phrased or formatted in a way that leads people to choose a certain answer instead of another. The same applies if your inquiries are hard to understand, making it difficult for customers to answer honestly.
  • Respondent burden is a relatively recent concern and it is often defined as the effort required to answer a questionnaire, or more precisely, how the responder perceives the participation in terms of how long it will take, difficulty level, and emotional toll.
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