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Survey Questions

When designing research, it is extremely important to choose questions wisely. It is usually better to use questions that have been used and tested previously.

The Faunalytics research team is sincerely grateful to Dr. Steven Shepherd, Dr. Keri Szejda, Dr. Tessa Urbanovich, and Louisianna Waring for their contributions in creating these curated lists of recommended scales.

If a simple program evaluation survey is all you’re looking for, you can find one possible template here.

There are many validated measures assessing different animal-related attitudes, beliefs, and more. If the options listed here don’t suit what you’re looking for, you have a few more options: You can look through Faunalytics’ past surveys on the Open Science Framework, have a look in the Faunalytics library for studies on a similar topic, or reach out to us for help using the contact form.

Animal Attitudes Scale

Herzog et al. (1991, 2015)

  • Measures general attitudes toward animal protection
  • 5- or 10-item versions (see Appendix of linked article for full scale)
  • Example: “I sometimes get upset when I see wild animals in cages at zoos.”

Solidarity with Animals

Amiot & Bastian (2017)

  • Measures solidarity (belonginess, closeness, attachment) with animals
  • 5 agreement items (see Study 1 Method section of linked article for scale details)
  • Example: “I feel close to other animals.”

Speciesism Scale

Caviola, Everett, & Faber (2018)

  • Measures speciesism, the prejudice that humans are superior to other animals
  • 6 agreement items (see linked summary for full scale)
  • Example: “It is morally acceptable to trade animals like possessions.”

Individual Farmed Animal Attitude Items

Attitudes Toward Diets

Povey, Wellens, & Conner (2001)

This measure is comparable to many other general attitudes measures. Povey et al. used these items to measure attitudes towards meat-eating diets, vegetarian diets and vegan diets, but the items could apply to many other behaviors or targets (e.g., products, specific types of food). When adapting this scale, consider that words like “bad/good” and “unpleasant/pleasant” can be used almost universally when measuring attitudes, whereas words like “harmful/beneficial” may be more context specific. Responses are given on a 7-point semantic differential scale (-3 to +3; positive scores indicating more positive attitudes, e.g., -3 = bad, +3 = good). An overall score is calculated by averaging individuals’ scores on the 4 items:

  • How “bad” to “good” would a [vegan/vegetarian/meat-eating] diet be?
  • How “harmful” to “beneficial” would a [vegan/vegetarian/meat-eating] diet be?
  • How “unpleasant” to “pleasant” would a [vegan/vegetarian/meat-eating] diet be?
  • How “unenjoyable” to “enjoyable” would a [vegan/vegetarian/meat-eating] diet be?

Attitude Towards Eating Meat

Lentz et al., (2018)

Respondents are shown the instruction:

“On the scales provided, please choose what most closely aligns with your thoughts and attitudes towards the act of consuming meat. NOTE: Scores closer to 1 mean you agree more with the attribute on the left and scores closer to 7 mean you agree more with the attribute on the right.”

Responses are given on a 7-point semantic differential scale with high scores indicating more positive attitudes. These five responses can be averaged together to give an overall attitude toward eating meat:

  • bad (1) to good (7)
  • unpleasant (1) to pleasant (7)
  • against (1) to for (7)
  • unfavorable (1) to favorable (7)
  • negative (1) to positive (7)

Barriers To Eating A Plant Based Diet

Lea, Crawford, & Worsley (2006)

Respondents are shown the instruction:

“Some people believe that eating a plant-based diet has specific difficulties. How much, if at all, do these statements apply to you?”

Responses are made on a 5-point scale, from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

  • I need more information about plant-based diets
  • I don’t want to change my eating habit or routine
  • My family/partner won’t eat a plant-based diet
  • Plant-based meals or snacks are not available when I eat out
  • There is not enough choice when I eat out
  • I don’t have enough willpower
  • Someone else decides on most of the food I eat
  • It would be too expensive
  • I don’t want to eat strange or unusual foods
  • I would have to go food shopping too often
  • There is not enough protein in them
  • I would get indigestion, bloating, gas or flatulence
  • It would not be filling enough
  • I would (or do) miss eating lots of ‘junk’ (e.g. sugary) food
  • There is not enough iron in them
  • I would be worried about my health (other than iron, protein)
  • It is inconvenient
  • I don’t know how to prepare plant-based meals
  • I wouldn’t get enough energy or strength
  • It would not be tasty enough
  • I would need to eat such a large quantity of plant foods
  • I think humans are meant to eat lots of meat
  • The plant foods I would need aren’t available where I shop or in the canteen or at my home
  • I don’t know what to eat instead of lots of meat
  • It takes too long to prepare plant-based meals
  • I don’t want people to think I’m strange or a hippy

Attitude Towards Meat Production and Consumption – Moral Disengagement in Meat Questionnaire

Graça, Calheiros, & Oliveira (2016)

Items are rated using a 5-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Moral disengagement in meat (global scale) is calculated by averaging all items. Scores for subscales can also be calculated. Items with an asterisk (*) are to be reverse-coded before calculating average scores (i.e., a 1 becomes a 5, a 4 becomes a 2, etc.).

Respondents are shown the instruction:

“In recent times, meat consumption is being increasingly debated on the grounds of environmental sustainability, health and safety concerns, and animal rights/welfare arguments. Please tell us your personal opinion about meat consumption indicating the extent to which you agree with the following sentences. Try to answer as spontaneously as possible, without giving much thought to the answers.”

Means-Ends Justifications

  • All things considered, meat is necessary to human diet.
  • The human being has needs that include eating meat.
  • The problems associated with meat also apply to other foods.
  • Eating meat keeps the balance of the food chain.
  • Despite everything, eating meat is part of a balanced life.


  • If I saw an animal being killed I would have no problems eating it.
  • If I had to kill the animals myself, I would probably stop eating meat.*
  • It would be difficult for me to watch an animal being killed for food purposes.*
  • I would be capable of skinning, separating the organs and cutting an animal to pieces.

Denial of Negative Consequences

  • By eating meat I’m also responsible for the problems associated to its production.*
  • People who eat meat should acknowledge the suffering in which food animals are kept.*
  • Those who eat meat should be aware of its impacts on public health.*
  • By eating meat I engage with an industry responsible for major damages.*
  • It’s important that people who eat meat think about the impacts to the environment.*  

Diffused Responsibility

  • Even if I change my habits, I don’t make a difference by myself.
  • It doesn’t matter if I change my habits because problems will still exist.
  • I will consider changing my habits only if others also change theirs.

Reduced Perceived Choice

  • Nowadays there are good alternatives to meat consumption.*
  • It’s possible to have an adequate diet without eating meat.*
  • It’s easy to have a meat-free diet.* 

Meat Attachment

Graça, Oliveira, & Calheiros (2015)

The Meat Attachment Questionnaire (MAQ) was developed to measure respondents’ positive bond towards meat consumption. Respondents indicate the extent in which they agreed or disagreed with each statement on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Items within each subscale can be averaged to get individual subscale scores. Scores can also be averaged across the entire scale to get a global MAQ score. Items with an asterisk (*) are to be reverse coded before calculating average scores. Numbers beside each item represent their original order in the questionnaire.


  • To eat meat is one of the good pleasures in life.
  • I love meals with meat.
  • I’m a big fan of meat.
  • A good steak is without comparison.


  • By eating meat I’m reminded of the death and suffering of animals.*
  • To eat meat is disrespectful towards life and the environment.*
  • I feel bad when I think of eating meat.*
  • Meat reminds me of diseases.*


  • To eat meat is an unquestionable right of every person.
  • According to our position in the food chain, we have the right to eat meat.
  • Eating meat is a natural and undisputable practice.


  • I don’t picture myself without eating meat regularly.
  • If I couldn’t eat meat I would feel weak.
  • I would feel fine with a meatless diet.*
  • If I was forced to stop eating meat I would feel sad.
  • Meat is irreplaceable in my diet.

Food Neophobia (Avoidance of New Foods)

Pliner & Hobden (1992)

Respondents are asked to rate their level of agreement with each item on a 5-point scale from disagree strongly to agree strongly. Higher scores indicate greater neophobia. Average ratings of each item make up individual overall food neophobia scores. Items with an asterisk (*) are to be reverse-coded before calculating the total score.

  • I am constantly sampling new and different foods.
  • I don’t trust new foods. *
  • If I don’t know what a food is, I won’t try it. *
  • I like foods from different cultures.
  • Ethnic foods look too weird to eat. *
  • At dinner parties, I will try new foods.
  • I am afraid to eat things I have never had before. *
  • I am very particular about the foods I eat. *
  • I will eat almost anything.
  • I like to try new ethnic restaurants.

Meaning of Food in Life

Arbit, Ruby, & Rozin (2017)

Respondents rate their agreement to each item on a 7-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The Meaning of Food in Life scale has 5 subscales. An average score is calculated for each.


  • When I eat food, I feel connected with the people I am eating with
  • Food is closely tied to my relationships with others
  • Sharing food with others makes me feel closer to them
  • Making food for others is a main way I show care for them
  • Food is a way for me to connect with my cultural traditions


  • When I eat food I think about where it came from
  • My food choices are an important way that I can affect the world
  • I care about the impact of my food choices on the world
  • I eat in a way that expresses care for the world
  • My food choices reflect my connection to nature


  • Some foods are spiritually polluting
  • From a spiritual perspective, some foods are better than others
  • My food choices are a way for me to connect with the sacred
  • What I eat is a reflection of my spiritual beliefs


  • Eating foods that I know are good for my body brings me comfort
  • I get satisfaction from knowing that the food I eat is good for my health
  • I eat in a way that expresses care for my body
  • I feel that nourishing my body is a meaningful activity


  • Preparing a good meal is like creating a work of art
  • A good meal is like a work of art
  • Eating a good meal is an aesthetic experience like going to a good concert or reading a good novel

Motivations to Reduce Meat Consumption

Lentz, Connelly, Mirosa, & Jowett (2018)

Respondents are asked one of two questions depending upon how they answer previous questions on the survey. All responses are provided using a 7-point scale where 1 = not at all important, 4 = moderately important, 7 = extremely important.

  1. Standard consumers who said they eat meat and have not reduced its consumption are asked: “How important, if at all, would each of the following factors be in strengthening your consideration to reduce your overall meat intake?”
  2. Reducers and abstainers are shown a different question: “Please think back to when you first decided to reduce your meat consumption. How important were each of the following factors in influencing your initial decision to lower your overall meat intake?” They are asked to rate each item individually.
    • health benefits
    • more environmentally friendly
    • animal welfare concerns
    • high cost of meat
    • taste preferences
    • weight control

Motivations/Benefits of Following a Plant-Based Diet

Lea, Crawford, & Worsley (2006)

Respondents are asked to rate each of the following potential motivations or benefits of following a plant-based diet, using a 5-point scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.

  • Decrease my saturated fat intake
  • Eat more fibre
  • Prevent disease in general (e.g. heart disease, cancer)
  • Eat a more ‘natural’ diet
  • Have lots of vitamins and minerals
  • Stay healthy
  • Control my weight
  • Improve my digestion
  • Eat a greater variety of foods
  • Be fit
  • Have a better quality of life
  • Have plenty of energy
  • Have a tasty diet
  • Be more content with myself
  • Lower my chances of getting food poisoning
  • Help the environment
  • Help animal welfare/rights
  • Increase efficiency of food production
  • Decrease hunger in the Third World
  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Have fewer food storage problems
  • Appear more ‘trendy’ to my friends

Pro-Environmental Attitudes

Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, & Jones (2000)

The New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) Scale consists of 15 items rated on a 5-point scale from fully agree to fully disagree.

  • We are approaching the limit of the number of people the earth can support
  • Humans have the right to modify the natural environment to suit their needs
  • When humans interfere with nature it often produces disastrous consequences
  • Human ingenuity will insure that we do NOT make the earth unlivable
  • Humans are severely abusing the environment
  • The earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them
  • Plants and animals have as much right as humans to exist
  • The balance of nature is strong enough to cope with the impacts of modern industrial nations
  • Despite our special abilities humans are still subject to the laws of nature
  • The so-called “ecological crisis” facing humankind has been greatly exaggerated
  • The earth is like a spaceship with very limited room and resources
  • Humans were meant to rule over the rest of nature
  • The balance of nature is very delicate and easily upset
  • Humans will eventually learn enough about how nature works to be able to control it
  • If things continue on their present course, we will soon experience a major ecological catastrophe

Intention to Reduce Meat Consumption

Berndsen & van der Pligt (2005)

Respondents indicate whether they intend to reduce meat consumption in the next three weeks, using a 9-point scale ranging from 1 = “Fully disagree” to 9 = “Fully agree.” Time frame can be adjusted.

  • Do you intend to reduce your meat consumption in the next three weeks?

Intention to Follow a Plant-Based Diet

Wyker & Davison (2012)

Respondents provide a rating for the following statements:

  • I intend to follow a plant-based diet in the next year. (1 = strongly disagree, 7 =strongly agree).
  • How likely is it that you will follow a plant-based diet in the next year? (1 = not at all likely, 7 = likely)

Willingness & Intention to Reduce Meat Consumption

Lentz, Connelly, Mirosa, & Jowett (2018)

Willingness to reduce meat consumption:

  • Respondents are asked: “On a scale from 1 – 7, how willing would you be to consider reducing your meat consumption sometime in the near future?” (1 = not at all willing, 7 = extremely willing)

Intention to reduce meat consumption:

  • Respondents are asked: “Specifically, in the next six months do you intend to reduce your meat consumption?” (1 = do not intend at all, 7 = fully intend)

With demographic and personal data, it is particularly important to be cautious about what you collect and how the data will be stored. If you don’t need the information, don’t ask these questions as they are potentially sensitive. If you do ask them, give participants the option not to answer if you can.


What is your gender?

  • Man
  • Woman
  • Non-binary
  • I do not see myself represented in the above options. My gender is ____.
  • Prefer not to say


What is your age? ___

Prefer not to say


Where do you live?

  • [dropdown list of states]
  • U.S. territory (e.g., Puerto Rico)
  • I do not reside in the United States
  • Prefer not to say

Usage Note: You should not look at your data at the state level unless you have several thousand participants—there will be too few per state for the results to be reliable. Instead, re-categorize the state-level information into regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. We recommend asking participants for their state rather than their region directly because some may be unsure of the regions.


What is your race/ethnicity?

  • Hispanic or Latinx
  • White, non-Hispanic
  • Black or African-American
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Two or more races
  • Other
  • Prefer not to say

Usage note: This item is adapted from the U.S. census format to combine race and ethnicity into one question for simplicity.


What is your annual household income before taxes?

  • Less than $20,000
  • $20,000 to $39,999
  • $40,000 to $59,999
  • $60,000 to $79,999
  • $80,000 to $99,999
  • $100,000 or more
  • Prefer not to say

Education Level

What is the highest level of education you have completed?

  • 12th grade or less, no diploma
  • High school graduate (or equivalent)
  • Some college/university, no degree
  • Associate degree / College diploma
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Professional or doctorate degree
  • Prefer not to say

Finding out what people eat is not easy. There are many possible approaches, each with their own pros and cons. We break down the main approaches below, and provide sample questions.

Self-Identification: How Do People Think of Themselves?

The simplest approach to measuring long-term diet is to ask people how they self-identify, in a question like this one:

Which of the following best describes your diet?

  • Omnivore/meat-eater (no restrictions on eating animal products)
  • Reducetarian, flexitarian, or semi-vegetarian (reducing meat consumption or only eating it occasionally)
  • Pescetarian (eats plant-based foods, eggs, dairy, and fish)
  • Vegetarian (eats plant-based foods, eggs, and dairy)
  • Vegan (eats only plant-based foods)
  • Other (please specify) _____________

This question is best if you want to know how people think of themselves. We recommend providing the extra details in parentheses because many people don’t know the definitions of each diet.

However, if you want to know what people actually eat, don’t assume that this question will give you the full story. Studies have found that up to half of people who call themselves vegetarian also reported having eaten meat in the past two days (Juan et al., 2015).

Self-Labeling: What Do People Call Themselves?

This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it is more objective to ask people about behavior than which diet best describes them. This question asks about a behavior — how they describe their diet. It also means that including definitions is unnecessary, because you want to know what they typically say, regardless of what they think it means. In fact, including definitions could bias their answer! This question can be especially useful when used alongside a consumption question from the next section.

How do you typically describe your diet?

  • Omnivore/meat-eater
  • Reducetarian
  • Flexitarian
  • Semi-vegetarian
  • Pescetarian
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Another way (please specify) _____________

This question is best if you want to know how people talk about themselves to others. You can also add other options if you like (Atkins, gluten-free, etc.) and allow them to select multiple responses if you want more detailed information.

Inferring Diet Type from Reported Consumption: What Do People Say They Eat?

If you want your definitions of “vegan,” “vegetarian,” etc. to be based on what people actually eat rather than how they describe themselves, you need to look at what they actually eat. If you can measure consumption directly (see below), that’s the most reliable method, but if that’s not an option, you can ask them what they eat without referring to diets. For instance:

Which of the following types of food have you eaten in the past 3 months? Please select all that apply.

  • Chicken (fried chicken, in soup, grilled chicken, etc.)
  • Turkey (turkey dinner, turkey sandwich, in soup, etc.)
  • Pork (ham, pork chops, ribs, etc.)
  • Beef (steak, meatballs, in tacos, etc.)
  • Fish (salmon, tuna salad, fish and chips, etc.)
  • Other seafood (shrimp, crab, mussels, etc.)
  • Other meat (duck, lamb, venison, etc.)
  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.)
  • Eggs (omelet, in salad, in baked goods, etc.)
  • None of the above

People can be easily categorized as vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, or omnivore based on their responses to this question, and if you want to disguise that goal, you can add other foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, coffee/tea, etc.

This question isn’t perfect. The three-month time frame may misidentify newer diet changes, and people may misremember or misreport their consumption (e.g., if they suspect you won’t categorize them as vegan if they admit they ate eggs once). However, it is easy to administer, answer, and analyze, and can be used to good effect if participants are made to feel comfortable answering honestly.

Actual Consumption: Direct Observation of Dietary Choices

Knowing how people self-identify can be useful, but in the end, knowing what they’re actually eating is often what we really want to know. Measuring participants’ behavior directly is always the best way to see what they actually eat.

You might try to partner directly with a restaurant, dining hall, or retail establishment for one-time purchase tracking after your intervention (e.g., Sparkman & Walton, 2017). Or if you’re more ambitious, for a longer data collection arrangement (e.g., Jalil, Tasoff, & Bustamante, 2019). Setting up the partnership may seem daunting, but we have found that restaurants are more amenable than you might think — and it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Using this kind of data as your outcome variable is easy–just remember that you need to link it to any other data you have about individual participants, like survey responses or a record of which condition of an experiment they were in. Depending on the context, it may make sense to use their student number (if it’s already tracked by a dining hall, for instance) or a random number that doesn’t link to any other identifying information about your participants outside the study itself. The latter means your study can be anonymous, which is ethically preferable if it’s feasible.

For more suggestions about using commercial marketing data, see the Humane League Labs (2018) report.

Self-Reported Consumption: Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQs)

Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQs) have been commonly used in advocacy research in the past, but they have important limitations. Like other self-reported consumption measures, FFQs are subject to misremembering and misreporting, and those problems get worse with longer and more complicated versions of the scale. If care is taken to maximize honest and thoughtful reporting, the biggest problem with FFQs is their high variability. This means that more participants are needed to find a significant effect. However, these difficulties are somewhat balanced by the fact that it’s usually easier to administer an FFQ than to observe participants’ diets directly, and therefore easier to get larger sample sizes.

A review of validation studies by Humane League Labs (2018) reported results showing that self-reported dietary measurements explained less than a quarter of the variance in actual protein and energy consumption. This was taken to suggest that people may not be accurately reporting the foods they are eating on an FFQ. However, when comparing across groups, the difference between actual and reported protein intake was only around 10% (Freedman et al., 2014).  Also, given that the biomarkers used to validate the FFQ only capture 24 hours and the FFQs covered a whole month, we would normally expect this type of variability regardless–most people’s diet changes from day to day, after all.  Put another way, even if a 30-day biomarker measurement existed, one would still expect test results from a 24-hour version to be somewhat different from the 30-day version.

In short, we don’t think there is evidence of strong systematic bias or a lack of reliability in the FFQ for how it is used in animal welfare research.  (As a final note, current biomarker tests are not specific. For example, pea protein looks the same to the test as beef protein. Given that our research is usually interested in the type of protein consumed rather than just the gross amount, their current utility seems low.)

For these reasons, we think that even though the FFQ has higher variability in measuring diet, its cost effectiveness and its ease of use for both participants and researchers make it a valid, useful tool.  Just make sure you collect a large sample in order to be able to detect an effect given the higher variability in the measure!

Here is an example of an FFQ:

You could use the above to see whether consumption of meat is significantly decreased by humane education. What you should not say is that “only X% of people eat meat after a humane ed session,” or make strong claims about how muchconsumption decreased (though of course you can report what you found). It’s a tricky distinction, so feel free to attend our office hour if you have questions.

FFQs are easy to use and modify (Cade et al., 2002). A few adjustments you might want to consider to suit your needs include:

  • Including only the categories you need and/or combining similar categories (e.g., “Chicken and Turkey”, “Dairy and Eggs”) to make it easier to complete (which reduces variance),
  • changing the time scale from 3 months to suit your study,
  • changing the frequency options if you have reason to believe they won’t capture the frequencies very well for your population of interest,
  • including additional products to disguise the purpose (Hebert et al., 1997), and
  • choosing culturally-relevant examples if the FFQ is intended for use in another country or with a specific cultural group in the U.S. (Vergnaud, et al., 2010).

For an example of a successful and acceptable use of an FFQ, please see Faunalytics’ study of how video outreach affects pork consumption.

Best Practice

The gold standard of dietary measurement is tracking actual behavior over a long period of time. However, this is not possible for all researchers or research contexts. We need more validation studies to identify additional ways of reliably tracking diet. In the meantime, use one of the other methods described above if this kind of data is not available to you. A large sample size determined by power analysis can compensate for higher variance in a measure, and strong study design reduces bias. If you need help creating that design, Faunalytics is here to help! Check out our research team’s virtual office hour.

Healthy Eater Identity

Povey, Wellens, & Conner (2001)

Four items measure the extent to which the respondent identifies as a healthy eater (7 point scale; scale anchors below). Scores are calculated by averaging responses across the four items.

  • I think of myself as a healthy eater. (“strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”)
  • I think of myself as someone who is concerned about the consequences of what I eat. (“strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”)
  • I think of myself as someone who is concerned with healthy eating. (“strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”)
  • I think my diet is… (“very healthy” to “very unhealthy”)

Health Conscious Self-Identity

Sparks, Conner, James, Shepherd, & Povey (2001)

Respondents rate their agreement with two statements on a 7-point scale (1 = disagree strongly, 7 = agree strongly). Scores are averaged to get a health-consciousness score.

  • I think of myself as a health conscious consumer
  • I think of myself as someone who is concerned about the consequences of what I eat

Self-Importance of Moral Identity

Aquino & Reed (2002)

This measure captures how important it is to the respondent to have a moral identity. The Internalization subscale measures the extent to which “the moral traits are central to their self-concept,” and the Symbolization subscale measures the extent to which “the moral traits are reflected in the respondent’s actions in the world.” Responses are made on a five-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). Items with an asterisk (*) are to be reverse-coded before calculating average scores.

The respondent is first given these instructions and context:

These are some characteristics that may describe a person: Caring, compassionate, fair, friendly, generous, hardworking, helpful, honest, kind. The person with these characteristics could be you or it could be someone else. For a moment, visualize in your mind the kind of person who has these characteristics. Imagine how that person would think, feel, and act. When you have a clear image of what this person would be like, answer the following questions.


  • It would make me feel good to be a person who has these characteristics
  • Being someone who has these characteristics is an important part of who I am
  • I would be ashamed to be a person who has these characteristics*
  • Having these characteristics is not really important to me*
  • I strongly desire to have these characteristics


  • I often buy products that communicate the fact that I have these characteristics
  • I often wear clothes that identify me as having these characteristics
  • The types of things I do in my spare time (e.g., hobbies) clearly identify me as having these characteristics
  • The kinds of books and magazines that I read identify me as having these characteristics
  • The fact that I have these characteristics is communicated to others by my membership in certain organizations
  • I am actively involved in activities that communicate to others that I have these characteristics

Basic Values

Sandy, Gosling, Schwartz, & Koelkebeck (2017)

The Twenty Item Values Inventory uses short “portraits” (statements) of different people describing a person’s goals, aspirations, or wishes that point implicitly to the importance of a value. For each portrait, respondents are asked to indicate how similar the person in the portrait is to themselves, on a six-item scale consisting of 1 = ‘not like me at all’, 2 = ‘not like me’, 3 = ‘a little like me’, 4 = somewhat like me’, 5 = ‘like me’ to 6 = ‘very much like me’ The importance of each value can be inferred from the self-reported similarity.

The respondent is given this introduction:

Here we briefly describe some people.  Please read each description and think about how much each person is or is not like you. Using a 6-point scale from “not like me at all” to “very much like me,” choose how similar the person is to you.
  1. They believe they should always show respect to their parents and to older people. It is important to them to be obedient.
  2. Religious belief is important to them. They try hard to do what their religion requires.
  3. It’s very important to them to help the people around them. They want to care for those people’s well-being.
  4. They think it is important that every person in the world be treated equally. They believe everyone should have equal opportunities in life.
  5. They think it’s important to be interested in things. They like to be curious and to try to understand all sorts of things.
  6. They like to take risks. They are always looking for adventures.
  7. They seek every chance they can to have fun. It is important to them to do things that give them pleasure.
  8. Getting ahead in life is important to them. They strive to do better than others.
  9. They always want to be the one who makes the decisions. They like to be the leader.
  10. It is important to them that things be organized and clean. They really do not like things to be a mess.
  11. It is important to them to always behave properly. They want to avoid doing anything people would say is wrong.
  12. They think it is best to do things in traditional ways. It is important to them to keep up the customs they have learned.
  13. It is important to them to respond to the needs of others. They try to support those they know.
  14. They believe all the worlds’ people should live in harmony. Promoting peace among all groups in the world is important to them.
  15. Thinking up new ideas and being creative is important to them. They like to do things in their own original way.
  16. They think it is important to do lots of different things in life. They always look for new things to try.
  17. They really want to enjoy life. Having a good time is very important to them.
  18. Being very successful is important to them. They like to impress other people.
  19. It is important to them to be in charge and tell others what to do. They want people to do what they says.
  20. Having a stable government is important to them. They are concerned that the social order be protected.

*Please note that we at Faunalytics have adapted the scale to use neutral pronouns.

Scale scoring: There are two statements per value. Average them together as follows:

  • Conformity: 1, 11
  • Tradition: 2, 12
  • Benevolence: 3, 13
  • Universalism: 4, 14
  • Self-Direction: 5, 15
  • Stimulation: 6, 16
  • Hedonism: 7, 17
  • Achievement: 8, 18
  • Power: 9, 19
  • Security: 10, 20

Additionally, these individual values can be combined into clusters of higher-order values. Average individual values together into higher-order values as follows:

  • Self-transcendence: Universalism, benevolence
  • Self-enhancement: Power, achievement
  • Openness to change: Self-direction, stimulation
  • Conservation: Conformity, tradition, security

Self-transcendent values conflict with Self-enhancement values. Openness to change values conflict with Conservation values. Hedonism includes elements of Openness to change and self-enhancement, and is therefore not included in calculations of higher order values.

Injunctive (“Should”) Norms About Diet: Person-Specific Version

Povey, Wellens, & Conner (2001)

Measures normative pressure from specific others (friends, family, health experts, colleagues, and partner) to eat different diets (vegan, vegetarian, meat eating). Items are rated on a 7-point scale (1 = not at all, 7 = to a very great extent). In addition, respondents are asked about their motivation to comply with each target (friends, family, health experts, colleagues, and partner) (1 = not at all, 7 = very much). Respondents should also be given a “not applicable” option, and those scores should be excluded from the calculations.

Overall subjective norm scores are calculated by multiplying each normative measure rating with the respective motivation to comply rating (e.g., normative pressure from friends X motivation to comply with friends), and averaging the mean value of the five products.

Normative Measure

  • My friends think I should eat a [vegan / vegetarian / meat-eating] diet.
  • My family think I should eat a [vegan / vegetarian / meat-eating] diet.
  • Health experts think I should eat a [vegan / vegetarian / meat-eating] diet.
  • My colleagues think I should eat a [vegan / vegetarian / meat-eating] diet.
  • My partner thinks I should eat a [vegan / vegetarian / meat-eating] diet.

Measure of Motivation to Comply

  • With regards to your diet, how much do you want to do what your friends think you should?
  • With regards to your diet, how much do you want to do what your family thinks you should?
  • With regards to your diet, how much do you want to do what health experts think you should?
  • With regards to your diet, how much do you want to do what your colleagues think you should?
  • With regards to your diet, how much do you want to do what your partner thinks you should?

Injunctive (“Should”) Norms About Meat Consumption: General Version

Lentz, Connelly, Mirosa, & Jowett (2018)

Respondents rate two items, as shown below. Scores are calculated by multiplying ratings on the first item with ratings on the second item.

Normative Measure

  • “People who are important to me think that I should eat meat”
  • Measured on a 5-point scale from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5)

Measure of Motivation to Comply

  • “In regards to people who are important to you, how much do they influence your actions to either consume or not consume meat?”
  • Measured on a 5-point scale from not at all (1) to a lot (5)

Perceived Behavioral Control: Diet Type

Povey, Wellens, & Conner (2001)

For each diet type, three items are rated on a 7-point scale (-3 to +3; labels for each item indicated in parentheses below). PBC scores are calculated by averaging the three items for each diet. This scale could also be easily adapted for other diets or specific foods.

  • How much personal control do you feel you have over eating a [vegan / vegetarian / meat eating] diet in the future? (complete control – very little control )
  • To what extent do you see yourself as capable of following a [vegan / vegetarian / meat eating] diet in the future? (very capable – not very capable)
  • How easy or difficult do you think it would be to follow a [vegan/vegetarian/meat eating] diet in the future? (very easy – very difficult)

Perceived Behavioral Control: Ability to Change Meat Consumption Habits

Lentz, Connelly, Mirosa, & Jowett (2018)

Respondents read, “In regards to your current meat consumption habits …”, followed by the following items, rated on a 7 point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). Scores are calculated by reverse-coding the item with the asterisk (*) and then averaging the three items. (Reverse-coding means a 1 becomes a 7, a 7 becomes a 1, etc.)

  • I am confident I could change my habits if I wanted to
  • Whether I change my habits is entirely up to me
  • Changing my habits is not something that is under my control*

Researchers are often concerned with the possibility of social desirability bias in their studies: people answering questions to make themselves look good rather than with full honesty. This is particularly concerning in studies run by advocacy organizations, where our goals and motives are generally quite clear to participants. E.g., if they know that the goal of an intervention (like a video) is to get them to eat less meat, that knowledge may conflict with the idea that the goal of research is to accurately measure their meat consumption.

The two best ways to avoid social desirability bias are:

  1. Measure diet directly, rather than using self-report (see “Measuring Diet” above). If your measure isn’t reliant on participants’ honesty, this bias can’t come into play. This method is particularly necessary if option #2 isn’t available to you because your study needs to be presented in a realistic advocacy context.
  2. Avoid giving the respondent clues about which answers the surveying organization would prefer. For instance, if you don’t need the study to “look like” advocacy, don’t brand it with an advocacy organization’s logo. You could even partner with a university and use their branding to make it clearer that this is research. And write your questions as neutrally and objectively as possible — have a non-advocate read them to make sure. (See “Writing Your Own Questions” below.)

We used to recommend controlling for social desirability bias if the above options were not available. However, we have since updated away from that recommendation following a review of the literature about flaws in this method (see, e.g., McCrae & Costa, 1983; Piedmont et al., 2000; Uziel, 2010). Although there is still some debate about what socially desirability scales measure, practicing good study design as described in the two methods above is a much safer (and very reliable) way of avoiding this bias.

Acknowledgement: We are grateful to Joachim Stöber, PhD, for his invaluable contributions to this section.

Why use a validated scale instead of your own items?

If you’ve combed through the sections above and don’t see anything that will work for you, you may want to write your own questions. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Keep your question or statement short and simple. Many adults in the U.S. have low literacy. If a student in grade 7 or 8 would have trouble with your question, as many as half of your participants will also have trouble with it. This lowers data quality because they can’t answer properly.
  2. Use common response options. This is good practice even if you’re writing your own question or statement, to ensure that you don’t inadvertently use options that are confusing to participants or produce results that are hard to interpret (examples below). Symmetrical scales are easier for participants and researchers, so use them whenever possible. With a symmetrical scale, the difference between “Negative” and “Somewhat Negative” is the same as the difference between “Positive” and “Somewhat Positive.” With an asymmetrical scale, the differences between the options is more subjective and hard to interpret.
    • Five-point, symmetrical scale with a midpoint: Strongly Disagree / Disagree / Neither Agree Nor Disagree / Agree / Strongly Agree
    • Six-point, symmetrical scale with no midpoint: Completely Dissatisfied / Dissatisfied / Somewhat Dissatisfied / Somewhat Satisfied / Satisfied / Completely Satisfied
    • Five-point, asymmetrical scale: Not At All Likely / Somewhat Likely / Moderately Likely / Very Likely / Extremely Likely
    • You can replace the words used with your own, but keep the format (e.g., Accurate/Inaccurate, Positive/Negative, Important/Unimportant).
  3. Avoid double-barreled questions (questions that ask about two things at once). For instance, imagine asking: “How satisfied were you with how knowledgeable and interesting the tour guide was?” Participants who thought the tour guide was boring but knowledgeable or interesting but inexperienced will have a hard time answering, and you’ll have a hard time interpreting the answers.
  4. Use negatives sparingly. Small negation words like ‘not’ or ‘don’t’ are easily missed by participants (e.g., “I often spend time with people who don’t care about animal rights”). Even more importantly, avoid confusing participants with multiple negations in one sentence (e.g., “I never spend time with people who don’t care about animal rights”).
  5. Consider the whole range of people who might participate. Think through how you’re going to recruit participants, and who will end up completely your study as a result. For instance, if your survey about your website pops up when someone visits the site, you will get some participants who are visiting for the first time. Do you need a “don’t know” or “not applicable” option on any of your questions? Can they skip some entirely?
  6. Don’t use Yes/No for a subjective question. Unless you’re asking something extremely straightforward, you can probably get more information by providing a wider range of response options. For example, if you’re asking “Would you recommend this product to a friend?”, rather than just choosing Yes or No, you could give five choices: Definitely Yes, Probably Yes, Uncertain, Probably No, Definitely No. (Sometimes it’s nice to report a simple percentage of people who said yes, but you can just combine the percentages who said probably or definitely yes.)
  7. Test your study. To make sure your questions are short and simple enough, conduct an informal pilot test by having 5 to 10 people complete your study as though they were participants. Ask them to tell you about their thought process and any problems they encountered. Watch for points of confusion, ambiguity, or difficulty finding a response option that fits.

To Cite This Page:

Faunalytics (2023). Questions to Use in Survey Research and Experiments. Retrieved from https://faunalytics.org/survey-questions

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