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GuidesSurveysLikert scale: Guide & examples for your next survey

Likert scale: Guide & examples for your next survey

Last updated

4 March 2023

Reviewed by

Tanya Williams

For nearly 100 years, Likert scales have provided researchers and marketers with statistically accurate insights into the attitudes and beliefs of respondents.

Nearly everyone is familiar with Likert scales, even if they don't know them by name. 

In this post, we'll break down what Likert scales are, how researchers use them, and some best practices should you decide they're a good fit for your needs. 

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What is a Likert scale?

A Likert scale is a rating scale used in survey research to measure attitudes, beliefs, opinions, or perceptions about a particular topic. 

The name comes from the inventor, psychologist Rensis Likert, who developed the concept in the 1930s. The scale consists of a series of numbered response options, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. 

By quantifying participants' attitudes in this way, you can analyze the results easily.

Types of Likert scales

You can conduct a Likert scale survey in one of two ways: With even or odd scales. The choice of scale will depend largely on the type of data you're hoping to obtain from your survey. 

Even Likert scale

Even Likert scales have an even number of options. For example, a 4-point Likert scale might have options for strongly disagree, disagree, agree, and strongly agree. 

The lack of a neutral option in even Likert scales forces survey respondents to pick one direction.

Odd Likert scale

Sometimes, it isn't desirable to force a choice on respondents. Odd Likert scales allow for a neutral middle option. This allows participants to indicate they’ve no strong feelings about the question. 

How do I choose a Likert scale?

Often, the type of questions you're asking will determine whether the neutral option of an odd Likert scale is appropriate. When choosing between the two, keep the following in mind:

Even-numbered Likert scales can provide more fine-grained data by forcing an answer in a specific direction. However, this only works if you’re surveying an attitude where it's reasonable to force an answer. 

For questions where people genuinely have a more neutral opinion, forcing them to choose can result in random choices that cloud the data rather than illuminate opinions. 

Benefits of Likert scales

You've likely filled out many surveys that contain Likert scale options. Although they've been around for a relatively long time, Likert scales remain the gold standard in surveys about people's attitudes and opinions. 

Although they aren't suitable for every scenario, they provide several benefits that maintain their status as a go-to survey construct.

Easy to administer

The simplicity of the Likert scale options makes them intuitive enough that they require no specialized instructions for respondents. Because they're easy to understand, you can administer these surveys easily and achieve accurate results.

Quantifiable data

Attitudes and opinions are inherently subjective. By assigning a numerical value to them, the Likert scale turns them into easily quantifiable data. 

Easy to analyze

Because the data is quantifiable, it also becomes easy to analyze. You can easily examine the results of a Likert scale survey through various statistical measurements. 

High reliability

Over the near-century they've been in use, Likert scales have repeatedly produced consistent, stable results. As such, the data is accurate for a single use and useful for comparisons over time.

Flexibility

Given their simplicity, Likert scales are suitable for measuring opinions on nearly any topic.

Affordability

The ease of administration and analysis combined with the intuitive nature of the options makes Likert scales one of the most affordable options at a researcher's disposal.

Likert scale use cases and examples

Let’s examine how the scales work in real-world scenarios with a few common use cases. 

Customer satisfaction

Companies commonly use Likert scales to measure customer satisfaction

They ask customers to rate how much they agree or disagree with statements related to various aspects of a product or service. 

Organizations can use the results of a Likert scale customer satisfaction survey to identify areas for improvement and increase customer loyalty.

A similar measure, the Net Promoter Score (NPS), also typically uses Likert scales. 

Rather than asking for an opinion on a product or service, NPS surveys ask respondents how likely they are to recommend a product or service to a friend. 

Employee engagement

Companies can use Likert scales to measure employee engagement. Surveys can ask employees to rate their level of agreement or disagreement with statements about various aspects of the workplace. 

For example, a Likert scale might measure employee satisfaction with job security, recognition, communication, etc. The results of an employee engagement survey can help businesses identify areas for improvement and increase employee morale and productivity.

Political views

Polling companies often use Likert scales to measure political views by asking respondents to rate their level of agreement or disagreement with political statements or issues. 

For example, a Likert scale could measure the public's views on issues such as immigration, gun control, healthcare, etc. 

When asking about support for political parties, polling companies use even and odd scales. 

Often, they’ll use an odd scale to capture how many people identify as independents before switching to an even-numbered scale to see which direction they lean in when forced to choose. 

Health behaviors

Healthcare professionals can provide more relevant advice when they better understand someone’s lifestyle. 

For example, a Likert scale could measure the frequency and consistency of behaviors such as exercise, healthy eating, stress management, etc. With the results, healthcare providers and organizations can design more effective interventions.

Psychological well-being

Similarly to healthcare, many psychological tests rely on Likert scales. 

For example, the surveys that psychiatrists use to diagnose conditions such as depression or anxiety often rely on a series of Likert scale questions. These ask patients about various aspects of their daily lives and the symptoms they’re experiencing. 

Mental health professionals use these scales to make recommendations. Likert scales also allow patients to see the results of treatment over time. 

Best practices for creating Likert scale surveys

To ensure useful results, follow these best practices when creating a survey using Likert scales:

Determine what you’re measuring

This may seem obvious, but unfocused surveys are a common problem. Surveys should provide information on a specific topic, so all questions should be relevant.

Set the right number of options

Although 4- or 5-point scales are common, your use case might require finer-grained results. Still, adding additional options might introduce less precision. Respondents may choose more randomly between options in the range of their opinion. 

Write clear and concise questions

Any ambiguity in the questions can result in respondents reading the question differently. If this happens, you'll collect data on different interpretations rather than the one you wanted. 

Pilot test the questionnaire

It's a good idea to try out your survey with a limited number of participants before running it at scale. This will allow you to identify any questions that are unclear or have an unintentional bias.  

What to do with your Likert scale results

Once you have the Likert scale results, the next steps depend on your goals. 

For simple, single-question surveys like the Net Promoter Score, you may simply record the results and use them to measure the success of your efforts to improve. Or, you may break the results down by customer segment for finer-grained information.

For all Likert scale questions, you can use statistical methods to analyze the data and:

  • Calculate the mean, median, and mode of the results

  • Create a frequency histogram to visualize them easily

  • Use inferential statistics to test your hypotheses

Remember that the results of a Likert scale survey are ordinal data, meaning that the distances between data points have no real meaning. Be sure to choose a statistical analysis method compatible with ordinal data when analyzing your results.

Likert scales are valuable across many industries, enabling you to gather clear-cut data from subjective situations. Try out our best practice tips to see how they improve the results you gather.

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