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Trap Questions

Survey creators sometimes add trap questions (or red herring questions) to their surveys to ensure respondents are thoroughly reading the survey questions and not rushing through the survey or satisficing.

Adding one or two trap questions allows you to filter out respondents who don't correctly answer the trap question. To do this, filter your survey results by question and answer and only show responses from respondents who chose the correct answer choice.

Examples

A common trap question is a Multiple Choice question where you ask respondents to select a particular answer choice.

Please select B as your answer choice.

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E

You could also choose to add an incorrect answer choice and filter out respondents who select it.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Strawberry
  • Soccer
  • Mint Chocolate Chip

To make your trap question even more difficult to spot, you can add it as a row in a Matrix question.

Do I need to add trap questions to my survey?

In general, the shorter and simpler your survey, the less of a need to add trap questions. Long or complicated surveys can cause respondents to exhibit survey fatigue and rush or straight-line through your survey.

Trap questions are also a common way to identify and control error when purchasing online panels. When respondents are taking surveys for cash rewards, they may rush to finish them as soon as possible and not read the questions carefully or click random responses.

However, if you're purchasing responses via SurveyMonkey Audience, we feel there is little need for trap questions. We provide non-cash rewards to respondents—respondents take surveys for charity and a chance to win a sweepstakes prize, which encourages them to provide honest, thoughtful opinions instead of rushing through a survey.

We've tested the quality of SurveyMonkey Audience responses by sending the same survey through SurveyMonkey Audience and several other online panel providers. The validity rate for SurveyMonkey Audience was 98%, while the other panel providers ranged between 76% and 88%.

Survey creators sometimes add trap questions to ensure respondents are thoroughly reading their survey questions. Adding one or two trap questions allows you to filter out respondents who don't correctly answer trap questions.

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