Cultural response differences in the international questionnaire surveys

In some cultures, people are more prepared to criticize than in others. In India, for example, it is considered rude to be critical of someone else’s work. Responses to rating scales therefore tend to be more positive than in many other countries. Within Europe, as a rule people in Latin coun­tries will tend to give higher ratings than in Nordic countries.

Some researchers, though, prefer to address the issue in the question­naire, particularly where there are strong differences because the study includes both Western and Asiatic countries. One way is to use scales that have positive responses only. Thus a scale might run from ‘very good’ to ‘fair’, or a set of smiley faces might have five positive smiles of different sizes and no frowns or negative smiles. Alternatively, scales can be extended to 10 or 11 points with five positive responses to increase the discrimination, or extended numeric scales can be used to try to minimize the sense of criticizing by avoiding negative words.

Roster, Albaum and Rogers (2006) showed that the use of extreme points on scales can also vary between countries. This means that although the same question may be asked in several countries, the result­ing data may not be directly comparable.

Another approach, cited by Wable and Pall (1998), is to use a ‘warm-up’ statement that distances the researcher from the product or advertise­ment being researched, so allowing the respondent to feel more able to criticize. This is a technique commonly used in qualitative research that they have transferred to quantitative questionnaires. They quote a typical warm-up as: ‘I would like your frank opinion about this ad. You don’t have to necessarily say nice things about it. Please feel free to give us any positive or negative opinion. We have not made this ad, so we will not feel bad if you don’t have nice things to say about it.’ They have shown that in India this has a measurable effect in reducing the level of positive comment, although it is not known whether it is sufficient to make the results directly comparable with all other countries.

Source: Brace Ian (2018), Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research, Kogan Page; 4th edition.

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