What Type of Data Are Likert Scales?

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Larry Thompson

What Type of Data Are Likert Scales?

Likert scales are a popular tool used in research and surveys to measure attitudes, opinions, and perceptions. They provide a structured way of collecting data by asking respondents to rate their agreement or disagreement with a series of statements.

Understanding Likert Scales

Likert scales consist of multiple items or questions, each with a set of response options that range from strongly agree to strongly disagree. These response options are typically represented by numbers or labels, such as:

  • 1 – Strongly Disagree
  • 2 – Disagree
  • 3 – Neither Agree nor Disagree
  • 4 – Agree
  • 5 – Strongly Agree

The responses from each item are then aggregated to provide an overall score or measure for the attitude or construct being assessed. The resulting data can be analyzed quantitatively to gain insights into people’s opinions and attitudes.

The Nature of Likert Scale Data

Likert scale data is considered ordinal in nature. Ordinal data represents categories with a natural order or ranking but does not have equal intervals between the categories. In the case of Likert scales, the response options have a clear order, but the difference between each option is not necessarily equal.

It is important to note that although Likert scale data is ordinal, it is often treated as interval data for analysis purposes.

Potential Issues with Treating Likert Scale Data as Interval Data

Treating Likert scale data as interval data allows for the use of statistical techniques that assume equal intervals between response options. However, this approach may oversimplify the nature of the data and lead to potential issues:

  • Loss of Information: By treating Likert scale data as interval, the original ordinal nature of the data is disregarded, potentially leading to a loss of important information.
  • Misinterpretation of Results: Treating Likert scale data as interval can result in misleading interpretations as it assumes equal differences between response options, which may not be accurate.
  • Limited Statistical Techniques: Some statistical techniques require interval or continuous data, and by treating Likert scale data as such, it may limit the analysis possibilities.

Conclusion

Likert scales are a useful tool for measuring attitudes and opinions in research and surveys. The data obtained from Likert scales is considered ordinal but is often treated as interval for analysis purposes.

While this approach allows for the use of a wider range of statistical techniques, it is important to be aware of the potential issues that can arise from treating Likert scale data as interval. Careful consideration should be given to the nature and characteristics of the data when interpreting and analyzing results.

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