Yes, although the degree of bias will depend on the overall layout of the survey and the survey questions/answers.
Do not design your survey platform so that the answers are the buttons. There are two main reasons for this:
- User expectation
- User behaviour
- Layout and design
1. User expectation
So, why is what people are expecting important?
Basically familiarity breeds expectation, and this usually leads to a better user experience because it matches what users are expecting. Here is some further reading to back this assertion up:
I would argue that you don't want to step away from a familiar approach unless you have something that is significantly better and therefore warrants the change. Using buttons for your answer choices will not match what users would be expecting when completing surveys or questionnaires, especially longer ones with multiple questions. As far as I can tell there is nothing to gain from using the button approach (let alone something that provides a better experience and therefore warrants the change).
2. User behaviour
Behavioural Insights research (aka behavourial economics) clearly identifies the most common behavioural traits of people. This research is basically all about helping us to understand why, when and how people make decisions.
We know from such research that one of the top 10 traits that people have is what's called a Status quo bias, also known as the 'do nothing bias'. Basically this is referring to the propensity people have for either doing nothing, maintaining the status quo, or taking the path of least resistance, rather than making a choice and taking action.
My assertion here is that using buttons will create a layout/design problem because some answers will be short (eg. yes, no, etc) and some answers may be quite long, containing an entire sentence (or even more). You can try to negate some of this (eg. ensuring all buttons are the same size), but regardless you will create an additional barrier for the user because they don't only have to read questions and try to decide on the best answer, but they also have to navigate the flow of questions and answers in a user interface that is different to the norm. This makes it harder for users to read and you run the risk of users taking the path of least resistance just to get through the questionnaire.
In other words, the risk you run is that you're creating an environment that results in the exact opposite of what you're trying to achieve. Clearly you're trying to make it easier and faster for users to navigate through and complete the questions.
3. Layout and design
The layout and design you opt for will also affect survey bias, especially since buttons are inherently an interactive object. Here is an excerpt from Fluid Surveys University:
Styling and Colouring
This section of survey bias includes any form of flare added to a
survey design. It can include colour schemes, font styles, logos,
videos, sounds and any other type of interactive element. Styling is
important to provide stimulus to the participant and avoid respondent
fatigue. Moreover, using colours and logos allows respondents to
recognize a survey’s legitimacy. However, providing styling can also
bias your survey. The fact is, people respond in various ways to
different colours and imagery. It is important to use pretesting to
ensure there are no issues with your choice of styling. Ask your
pretest team whether they can clearly see and read everything in the
survey and if the style used effected how they felt about the survey
questions. A rule of thumb for styling is to ensure that the survey
cannot be considered directed towards one demographic. Instead any
added styling or colouring should make the survey look neutral while
still being inviting and professional.
The reason I included the above quote is that I see some additional issues relating to the use of buttons in the manner you propose:
- An increased likelihood of respondent fatigue
- A design that may appear less inviting and perhaps even less professional
- Suitability for mobile devices
This is because your proposed design is not what they will be expecting, both in terms of appearance (buttons instead of other form elements) and behaviour (auto-advancing the user through the survey). It's also likely to be harder to read for many surveys.
The excerpt above may not specifically mention smartphones or tablets, but there is no doubt that their proliferation since the onset of the iPhone in 2007 has impacted survey research. Most smartphone users now access their emails remotely which means they're much more likely to action a survey request remotely as well. This raises the following questions:
- How will your survey come across on mobile devices?
- How easy will it be to provide a mobile-friendly version of your survey?
All these factors will affect your completion rate (which indirectly increases bias).
If it were me, I would stick to radio buttons, check boxes, drop-down lists, etc for your answers. This is what users expect when completing a survey or questionnaire online, and using buttons has no real benefit and is more likely to corrupt your data with responses that are biased towards what was easier for users to complete.