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Demographic Questions in Surveys: The Ultimate Guide

demographic questionsDemographics are the statistical data that reflects the socioeconomic characteristics of a given population. Demographics include factors such as age, income, and education levels, gender, race, ethnicity and marital and employment statuses, among others. They often shape the interests, behavior and mindsets of consumers and, thus, are used by businesses to help define an “ideal customer” profile and target people in the future who share the same characteristics.

But how should business ask questions based on demographics, and, just as importantly, how can they decide which demographic questions to focus on?

One of the best and easiest ways to gather demographic data on the people on a product’s target market is to surveying them and ask them personal questions in a respectful manner. Consider the following guidelines when designing demographic questions for your next market research survey:

Understand Your Research Goal

Everyone knows it’s important to keep goals in mind.  It’s no different when considering demographic questions for your surveys. The type of demographic data you seek should further your research goal. For instance, if you are surveying high-school students you probably don’t need to ask them about their income level or marital status. Choose questions that will add value to your understanding and not waste your respondents’ time.

Keep It Short and Simple

Similarly, you don’t want to frustrate respondents or cause fatigue. Make your demographic questions brief and focused on one topic at a time. Limit possible answer choices to six options or fewer (if possible) with no over- or underlap. Use simple language to avoid confusion and the possibility of incomplete or corrupted data because unclear or poorly worded questions.

Respect Privacy

Asking personal questions is complicated and it requires a respect that should be apparent and sincere to respondents. Take care to word questions about sexuality and gender (for instance) with great care. What's more, don't make assumptions with your questions, and avoid "leading" phrases. Consider allowing respondents to choose more than one answer (multi-select checkboxes instead of single-select radio buttons) for questions that ask them to describe themselves in some way (like their ethnicity, gender identity or race). Tell them how you will use their data and how you will protect their privacy. Finally, make sure that you follow all applicable laws when working with sensitive information, especially when using a survey platform on the Internet. People are more likely to be honest if they feel respected and valued.

Don’t Force Responses

Sometimes, even after you’ve given as many choices as you can and provided a safe environment, people will still refuse to answer a question. And it's probably for the best to let them. Forcing people to complete a survey when they're uncomfortable doing so can lead to people abandoning the it altogether or, possibly worse, choosing a random answer. Neither provides meaningful feedback and each could potentially skew your results in worse ways than would an incomplete answer. The freedom to move on can keep respondents in the game for the questions that really matter.

Learn More

Demographic information can be the foundation that businesses need to make decisions regarding their consumers, their competition and even themselves. Communications for Research (CFR) has a proven track record providing quality surveys that gather all types of demographic data. Contact us to see how we can provide inbound or outbound survey services for your next market research campaign.

Topics: survey

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