Using the Likert Scale for Visualizing Survey Data

When it comes to measuring attitudes and opinions on surveys, one of the most common rating scales used is the Likert Scale. Developed in 1932, the Likert Scale measures attitudes and opinions by asking survey respondents how strongly they agree or disagree with a series of different statements.

Likert Scale Examples

Most have seen the Likert Scale in action many times, which you’ll realize once you see an example:

I feel the most important issue facing today’s new college graduates is the lack of available jobs in their field of specialty.

Strongly agree / agree / don’t know / disagree / strongly disagree

Each of the responses would be assigned a numerical value, which could then be used to measure overall attitudes in the survey analysis stage. Strongly agree, for instance, may hold a value of 5, while strongly disagree would hold a value of 1.

Agreement is not the only attitude that can be measured with the Likert Scale. It can also be used to measure elements such as frequency, importance and likelihood.


  • Very frequently
  • Frequently
  • Occasionally
  • Rarely
  • Never


  • Very important
  • Important
  • Somewhat important
  • Not very important
  • Unimportant


  • Highly likely
  • Likely
  • Somewhat likely
  • Not very likely
  • Not likely at all

Analyzing Likert Scale Data

Visualizing survey data with information obtained using the Likert Scale can be done multiple ways.


Summarize the data using a mode, or the value that occurs most often in the responses. Crosstab software could help by categorizing your respondents into subgroups, such as male and female, with the mode used ascertain the most common opinion in each subgroup.

Question: Football is the most enjoyable sport to watch.

  Male Female TOTAL
5 – Strongly agree 37 1 38
4 – Agree 9 14 23
3 – Don’t know 1 10 11
2 – Disagree 3 9 12
1 – Strongly disagree 0 10 10
TOTAL 50 39 89

The mode for males would be strongly agree, or the value of 5, with the value of 5 coming up 37 times. The mode for females would be agree, or the value of 4, with the value of 4 coming up 14 times. The mode for the entire audience would be the value of 5, which comes up 38 times overall.

Bar Chart

Using a bar chart for visualizing survey data is another option. Here you would use a bar to indicate each value, ranging from 5 to 1, or strongly agree to strongly disagree, with the bar size determined by the number of responses for each value.

Pros and Cons

One of the greatest benefits of using the Likert Scale is the variation in attitude you can measure, which goes beyond a simply yes or no response. You can instead gauge different intensities or degrees of opinion, or even if respondents have no opinion at all. Because each response is correlated with a specific numerical value, your results are quantitative and therefore easily measured.

One downside of the Likert Scale is the same downside you find with all surveys: the validity of the responses can be skewed by social desirability. In other words, survey respondents could answer a question in a way they feel reflects positively on them, regardless of whether or not the response is true. Using anonymous surveys can help decrease the likelihood of skewed answers due to social desirability.