Words matter. And we fear that the verbiage chosen for a public survey circulated as part of the business case for the planned airport expansion could produce skewed and incomplete results.

This is most unfortunate, because those results will influence the document that policymakers will use to decide the project’s future.

The 10-question survey, which government said was created by the “steering committee” for the expansion project, asks for opinions on a variety of important topics. The questions themselves are reasonable.

Here are a few: “Do you think an airport expansion will affect the cost of living for the general public? What do you think the impact on public services such as healthcare, education and utilities will be? How do you think the expansion will influence public safety and emergency response capabilities?”

The problem, however, arises from the limited selection of multiple-choice answers provided for each question.

Respondents, for instance, must choose from four answers to describe the impact on public services: “no impact on public services;” “slight improvement in certain public services,” “moderate enhancement across multiple public services;” and “significant improvements in public service availability and quality.”

There is no option for respondents who fear the expansion — and the dramatic increase in visitor traffic it could bring to the VI — might worsen public services.

Similarly, the cost-of-living question only allows respondents to opine that the expansion will have “no significant impact” on the cost of living or bring a “slight,” “moderate” or “significant” increase.

No option is provided for someone who believes that costs will decrease as a result of greater connectivity to other destinations.

The answer options for the other questions are similarly limiting. Taken together, they will surely leave respondents wondering if the survey is designed to elicit certain results.

Clearly, it would be more helpful to have a wider range of potential answers as well as blanks that allow respondents to craft their own comments for each question if they wish.

In December when the BVI Airports Authority launched a tender process to select a contractor to carry out the business case for the expansion, we praised the move as “finally taking the proposal back to the drawing board — and restarting it in the right way.” The subsequent selection of the firm KPMG to carry out the business case was another important development.

However, the new survey appears to be a step backward. If left as is, it will lessen public confidence in a complex undertaking that would be the territory’s most expensive capital project ever.

Fortunately, there’s an easy and cheap fix. The project steering committee should retract the current survey and replace it with one that allows for more comprehensive public input. That way, all residents can have an adequate say about the future of this important project.

After that, an extensive series of public meetings should be held across the territory to give residents a chance to air their opinions about the project in person.

Successive governments have been dropping the ball with the airport expansion for more than a decade. This time around, leaders must get it right.