Demographic questions are survey questions that serve to uncover the identity of a respondent. They give insight into respondents’ gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, education level, and income.
These types of questions are most frequently a part of market segmentation or market research surveys.
Why You Need to Collect Demographic Information
Demographic questions are very useful for gaining a better understanding of a certain group of people, identifying similarities and differences between two or more demographics, as well as creating buyer personas.
They can help guide marketing campaigns, sales strategies, and customer service efforts.
How Many Demographic Questions Should You Ask
Asking more demographic questions will allow you to gain a better understanding of your target group. However, if you ask too many questions, you risk annoying your respondents and having them give up on completing your survey.
Most people don’t want to spend more than five minutes on a survey, so try to ask only what you really need, and not more than ten or so demographic questions.
10 Demographic Questions You Should Consider Using in Your Next Survey
Following is a list of demographic questions you should consider asking when planning your next survey
A respondent’s age will give you insight into their knowledge and experience regarding the focus of the survey. It will also allow you to compare opinions between different age groups and possibly find a correlation between specific ages and opinions.
Asking for the respondent’s age is usually one of the first demographic questions asked in most surveys. With many people being sensitive about their age, however, it’s not a good idea to force respondents to answer this question.
While the age ranges provided in the answer will vary based on the topic of your survey, you should still make sure that people of any age will be able to respond properly. You can do this by including “Under X” or “Over Y” as possible answers.
It’s usually best to use wider age ranges since this will result in a smaller list of options. This, in turn, will help to reduce survey fatigue.
However, if the focus of your survey would benefit from having more precise information on your respondents’ age, you can offer smaller age ranges as answers.
Finally, make sure that none of the answers overlap with each other.
Here’s an example of a demographic question inquiring about respondents’ age:
What is your age?
- Under 18
- Above 54
Notions of gender have been changing in the last few decades. This makes it crucial that you approach asking for a respondent’s gender very carefully. Always leave respondents the option of not stating their gender if they’re not comfortable with doing so.
You might also want to phrase this as an open-ended question.
Here’s how you can ask about respondents’ gender:
Do you identify as:
- Different Gender Identity
You can also use the following alternative:
What gender do you identify as?
- Prefer not to answer
Finding out a respondent’s ethnicity can help you discover correlations between a person’s culture or upbringing and their opinions on certain topics. However, asking for someone’s ethnicity can be very tricky since plenty of people are sensitive about this topic.
This type of question is best asked in a checkbox format where respondents are allowed to check multiple boxes. You should also provide the option of not answering the question at all.
Here’s an example of a question that tries to reveal respondents’ ethnicity:
Which of the following best describes you? Select all that apply.
- Hispanic or Latino
- Native American
Here’s an alternative version that you can also use:
Please specify your ethnicity.
- Latino or Hispanic
- Native American
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- Prefer not to say
The type of survey you choose will dictate how you’re going to frame the demographic questions regarding respondents’ location. If you’re creating a survey for a local business, you’ll probably want to ask for the respondents’ city of residence.
If, on the other hand, your survey is supposed to provide information for an international business, you’ll need to ask respondents for their country of residence.
The provided answers can then be used to create a dot density map or a heat map.
Here’s how you can phrase a demographic question concerned with respondents’ location:
Where is your home located?
- North America/Central America
- South America
- Caribbean Islands
- Pacific Islands
- Other: ______
- Prefer not to say
Sometimes you might want to find out the level of education your respondents have achieved. This can be very useful for businesses because it allows them to segment their customers, as well as uncover trends among groups of customers with the same education level.
When inquiring about respondents’ education level, make sure to include options for apprenticeships and trades.
Here’s an example:
What is the highest degree or level of education you have completed?
- Some High School
- High School
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Master’s Degree
- Ph.D. or higher
- Trade School
- Prefer not to say
Depending on the population you’re surveying, you might want to use these answer options instead:
- Less than high school or secondary school degree
- High school or secondary school degree
- Bachelor’s degree
- Master’s degree or diploma
6. Employment status
Finding out about your respondents’ employment status can help you analyze survey results more effectively by allowing you to take into account respondents’ profession-based biases and experiences.
Demographic questions related to employment can address a number of different topics, including industry, job title, organization type, and years of experience.
Here’s an example:
Are you currently…?
- Employed for wages
- Out of work and looking for work
- Out of work but not currently looking for work
- A home-maker
- A student
- Unable to work
Alternatively, you might want to phrase this question as follows:
What is your current employment status?
- Full-time employment
- Part-time employment
7. Work hours per week
Apart from learning your respondents’ employment status, you might also want to know how many hours per week they work.
Here’s how you can phrase that specific question:
How many hours do you work in a particular week?
- Less than 10 hours
- 11 to 20 hours
- 21 to 30 hours
- 31 to 40 hours
- More than 40 hours
8. Marital status
While demographic questions related to marital status are usually considered less important than those concerning gender or ethnicity, they can be very useful, but also difficult to tackle.
This type of question helps you gain a better understanding of how your respondents’ decisions might be influenced by a romantic relationship (or lack of it). For example, it’s been shown that women who are married tend to pay more attention to ads than single women.
Here’s an example of a question asking respondents to state their marital status:
What is your marital status?
Here’s another one:
Are you married?
- Prefer not to say
9. Household composition
The size of a respondent’s household can significantly influence their decisions and their way of thinking. The presence and number of children in a household can influence, among other things, the types of food items bought on a weekly basis, and the types of television programming watched daily.
Here’s a question you can ask to learn more about your respondents’ household composition:
Including yourself, how many people currently live in your household?
- More than 4
If you need additional information on household composition, you might want to follow up with a question such as:
How many of your household members are people under the age of 18?
- More than 3
10. Household income
Apart from household composition, you might also want to know the respondents’ household income.
Household income can reveal if respondents can afford a particular product or service, as well as provide insight into any possible correlation between income and opinions on certain topics.
Here’s a question you can use to find respondents’ total household income:
How much total combined money did all members of your household earn in the previous year?
- $0 – $9,999
- $10,000 – $19,999
- $20,000 – $29,999
- $30,000 – $39,999
- $40,000 – $49,999
- $50,000 – $59,999
- $60,000 – $69,999
- $70,000 – $79,999
- $80,000 – $89,999
- $90,000 – $99,999
- $100,000 or more
Alternatively, you may opt for different phrasing and fewer options:
Which income group does your household fall under?
- Less than $20,000
- $21,000 – $30,000
- $31,000 to $40,000
- $41,000 to $50,000
- $51,000 to $60,000
- Above $60,000
Again, as with demographic questions related to age, it’s essential that the answer ranges don’t overlap as to not cause any confusion for both the respondents and the researchers.
You’ll need to consider your respondents when choosing answer ranges for this question. If you’re surveying students, they’ll most likely not be making more than $20,000 per year, so you’ll want to include more answer ranges below that amount. Similarly, if you’re surveying a more affluent population, you’ll want to include more answer ranges above $100,000.
Note that no matter how you phrase this question, some people still won’t feel comfortable answering it. Additionally, in certain cultures, it’s considered impolite to ask about a person’s income, so make sure to keep that in mind as well.
To address this, you might want to include a “Prefer not to answer” as one of the possible answers.
How to Create a Great Survey
We’ve gone through the ten most important demographic questions that can help you understand your respondents better. Now it’s time to learn how to conduct a survey. Let’s look at what you can do to create a truly great survey:
- Set a goal – Setting a goal for your survey will make it easier for you to decide which demographic questions to include.
- Ensure anonymity – If the purpose of your survey isn’t to create leads but rather to reveal trends or patterns in a certain population’s behavior, it’s best to make your survey anonymous. This will make respondents feel more at ease answering all the demographic questions truthfully, as well as help you have an easier time getting more people to fill out your survey.
- Include a brief introduction – Explaining why you’re conducting the survey and what you’re going to do with the results will make respondents feel more comfortable and reassure them that their information is in safe hands.
- Make it short – No one wants to fill out a very long survey. Try to keep your survey fairly short and include only those demographic questions that are absolutely crucial for the purpose of your survey. This will help reduce the risk of survey fatigue and ensure that more people fill out your survey.
- Consider using compensation – Any type of compensation for survey completion can do wonders for increasing the number of respondents that will fill out your survey. Consider using monetary compensation or some type of freebie as a prize for completing your survey.
- Allow respondents to self-describe – While using defined answer options for all the demographic questions in your survey is convenient from a data collection and analysis standpoint, some respondents might need to self-describe to provide a more accurate answer. Make sure to include this option for at least some of your questions.
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