If you think back about all of the surveys that you’ve taken in your life, the vast majority of them have been anonymous. Maybe you filled out a slip of paper at a restaurant. Or there was that time that you talked to a pollster on the phone about the local election. Oh, and don’t forget the five stars that you gave the service station the last time you got your oil changed. All of these interactions are surveys, and for the most part, they have been anonymous.

But, with the advent of new technology, companies have become very interested in getting you to complete non-confidential surveys. These surveys might be tied to your email, or displayed via an app that requires you to log in. Now, the group administering the survey knows who you are and can use your responses to better understand your experiences and preferences. This can be a good thing, especially when you provide feedback about a negative experience that allows someone to respond and make things better. On the other hand, non-confidential surveys can make you feel like big brother is constantly watching.

No matter what population you’d like to survey, it behooves you to think through the positives and negatives of anonymous vs. non-confidential surveying.


  • Anonymous surveys create a sense of trust and respect in the population being surveyed. It makes them feel like their opinion is valued and desired equally.
  • When someone doesn’t feel like their responses can be traced back to their identity, they are more likely to give real, unbiased feedback. This also means that their responses will more accurately reflect how they are actually feeling.
  • Response rates for anonymous surveys are usually better than for non-confidential surveys. This is because people are more likely to trust the stated intentions of an anonymous survey.


  • If a specific issue or allegation is raised on an anonymous survey, you will not be able to identify who the response came from, preventing you from following up to see if the situation has been rectified.
  • When you don’t know who the response is coming from, it can be difficult to determine if the feedback is coming from a “squeaky wheel” or a truly dissatisfied respondent.
  • Depending on how the survey was administered (such as written or online) a person could complete multiple surveys, skewing the scores.

At Holleran, the vast majority of our surveys are conducted anonymously. But, in recent, months, we’ve seen a definite move towards non-confidential feedback. As you plan for your next survey, take some time to discuss the pros and cons with your team. This can help you determine what kind of feedback you’re hoping to get from your survey and how you are going to use it to make improvements in the future.