Journal Article

The Influence of Answer Box Format on Response Behavior on List-Style Open-Ended Questions

Florian Keusch

in Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology

Published on behalf of American Association for Public Opinion Research

Volume 2, issue 3, pages 305-322
Published in print September 2014 | ISSN: 2325-0984
Published online July 2014 | e-ISSN: 2325-0992 | DOI:
The Influence of Answer Box Format on Response Behavior on List-Style Open-Ended Questions

Show Summary Details


This article extends previous research on visual design effects in list-style open-ended questions, which ask respondents to name items of a specific category. I analyze differences in response behavior between formats that provide the respondent with one large answer box and those that provide 10 small answer boxes when asking the respondent about unaided brand awareness, controlling for demographic respondent characteristics and personal topic interest. In three experiments embedded in web surveys, respondents from a nonprobability online panel were randomly assigned to one of two question formats asking about unaided brand awareness of insurance companies (Experiment 1: n = 579), airlines (Experiment 2: n = 633), and car tires (Experiment 3: n = 604). The results indicate that respondents use cues from the answer box format of list-style open-ended questions to infer what the questionnaire designer expects from them as appropriate answers. When controlling for personal topic interest and respondent demographics, I found that the number of brands named and the time the respondents needed to give an answer to the question were significantly higher if 10 small answer boxes were presented, compared with just one large answer box in two of the studies. Additionally, respondents named more brands that were less accessible when provided with the 10 small answer boxes.

Keywords: Answer box format; List-style open-ended questions; Questionnaire design; Response behavior; Web surveys

Journal Article.  6259 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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