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I recently re-ran a survey for year to year comparisons. In the recent survey I changed the Likert scale slightly by anchoring each box rather than just # 1 and # 6.

In other words, my scale went from this:

1 - agree completely, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 - disagree completely

To this:

1 - agree completely 2 - agree 3 - somewhat agree 4 - somewhat disagree 5 - disagree 6 - disagree completely

Will the year to year comparisons still be accurate? I have looked online but have not found any standard best practices in this area. Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ Your use of 'anchor item' does not correspond to what it ought to mean in psychometrics. I would suggest to update your title to reflect that this question is about wording of response categories or item format that changed over time. $\endgroup$
    – chl
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 22:33

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I think there are some studies claiming that it makes a difference regarding the distribution of responses. The main concern is to justify the interval scale. Likert scales anchor every point and try to encourage equal interval sizes. Strictly speaking, a Likert scale always requires that all points are anchored.

However, I doubt it makes a difference. Whatever anchoring you use, data will always be subject to scale usage heterogeneity (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2670337). This effect will be much stronger than any effect caused by anchoring.

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  • $\begingroup$ The other issue will be compositional effects due to sampling changes from one year to the other. I imagine scale usage heterogeneity and sample compositional effects will swamp any other factors. $\endgroup$
    – Michelle
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ What is your definition of anchoring? $\endgroup$
    – chl
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ ok, my answer is a bit sloppy mixing anchoring and labeling. In the context of likert scales anchoring refers to labeling in a way, such that there is some kind of absolute reference point which calibrates the scale. Again, I don't think that we can ever be certain that it works. $\endgroup$
    – joint_p
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 16:39

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