Asking demographic survey questions is important to any type of market research study as they help businesses understand the characteristics and behaviors of their target audience.
By segmenting respondents based on demographics such as age, gender, income, and education level, businesses can tailor their marketing strategies and products to better meet the needs and preferences of specific groups.
However, understanding what survey demographic questions to include and how many can be challenging, especially for those who are new to market research.
In this blog post, our market research company has compiled 20 example demographic survey questions that businesses can use to better segment their respondents and gain valuable insights into their target audience.
- What are demographics?
- What are demographic survey questions?
- Why are demographic survey questions important in a survey?
- Demographic survey questions + examples
- Where should I include demographic questions in a survey?
- Best practices for asking demographic survey questions
In market research, demographics refer to specific characteristics of a population or group of people that are relevant for market segmentation and targeting.
Types of demographics often include characteristics such as:
- Marital status
- Household income
- Education level
All of these categories add another layer to your survey research design, providing a broad picture for the client.
At times even zip census codes and zip codes can be used in demographic research. It really comes down to the type of project you’re running, and to who you need to respond.
Often, demographics are handy because they can be used for data cross-tabulations and buying targeted samples.
Demographic survey questions are used in market research to help qualify respondents and gather profiling information.
These questions can be open-ended or closed-ended and can be administered through a variety of methods, including online surveys, phone surveys, face-to-face interviews, and focus groups.
Including demographics in basic survey questions gives researchers special insight into their target audience. This insight can shape the way clients choose to interact with feedback.
As we mentioned, demographic survey questions can cover a wide range of topics, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, education level, income, occupation, geographic location, marital status, and more.
But why is knowing this information important? Demographic survey questions are important in a survey for several reasons:
Demographic survey questions help segment survey respondents into different groups based on their characteristics and attributes.
This segmentation allows researchers to analyze the data and identify patterns and trends among different groups of respondents.
For example, a company might use demographic survey questions to understand the needs and preferences of a particular customer segment, such as millennials or working parents, and develop marketing campaigns and products that are tailored to those needs.
In fact, Drive Research used several demographic questions in our Grocery Shopping Consumer Report. With this insight, we created seven customer segments that grocery and retail stores can use to drive decision-making.
Demographic survey questions help researchers identify specific target groups that may be particularly interested in a product or service.
By understanding the demographic characteristics of their target audience, researchers can develop more effective marketing strategies and tailor their products and services to better meet the needs of that audience.
In many instances, an organization conducting market research wants to only collect feedback from a specific audience. For instance, let's say a sunscreen brand is developing a new product.
They want to conduct focus groups with their target audience: millennials and Gen Z females who use sunscreen at least three times a week.
Therefore, a focus group company would likely use a recruitment screener that contains demographic survey questions such as gender, age, and sunscreen usage to pre-qualify potential participants for the focus groups.
Lastly, demographic survey questions are important to assure the data is not skewed by one specific audience.
It is always important to ensure that research is inclusive, representative, and accurate.
By collecting information on key demographic factors, organizations can better understand the experiences and needs of diverse populations.
So you now have a better understanding of what demographics are and why demographic survey questions are helpful to include for market research - but what specific questions do you need to identify your demographic?
We've got you covered.
Example demographic survey questions include:
- Which of the following best describes your age? Select one.
- Which of the following genders do you most identify with? Select one.
- Which of the following best describes your total annual income? Select one.
- Which of the following best describes you? Select all that apply.
- What is the highest level of education you have completed?
- What is your primary field of work or area of study? Select one.
- What is the ZIP code of your primary residence? Enter a 5-digit ZIP Code.
- Which of the following best describes your employment status? Select one.
- Which of the following best describes your marital status? Select one.
- What is your current housing situation? Select one.
- Including yourself, how many people live in your household? Select one.
- How many children (under the age of 18) primarily live in your household? Select one.
- Which of the following best describes your primary healthcare insurance? Select one.
- Which of the following best describes the setting of your primary residence? Select one.
- Which of the following best describes the location of your primary residence in the U.S.? Select one.
- What state do you primarily live in? Select one.
- What is your primary language spoken at home? Select one.
- What is your political affiliation? Select one.
Below, our online survey company dives into what we believe are the most important demographic survey questions to include and their recommended response options.
Curious about the age of the survey respondents? There are a variety of ways to ask this question.
The ideal way to ask the age for your next market research project will depend on how the results will be used.
Below are two examples of how to ask about age in a market research survey:
- Example #1: Which of the following best describes your age? Select one. Age groups can be listed traditionally (e.g., Under 18, 18 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65 and over) or age groups can be customized based on the needs of the organization. Opting for this method keeps analyzing survey responses and creating cross-tabulations simple.
- Example #2: What is your year of birth? A dropdown box with years listed. This demographic survey question example is ideal for ongoing research (since age groups for respondents will change year over year) or organizations that wish to place respondents' age groups after data has been collected.
Gender is a commonly asked demographic question, but market researchers are also finding it's becoming less necessary for organizations to ask since differences among genders are slight.
Below is an example of how to ask about gender in a market research survey:
- Example: Which of the following genders do you most identify with? Select one.
Income is a demographic question that asks for personal and sensitive information.
Below are two examples of how to ask for income in a market research survey:
- Example #1: Which of the following best describes your total annual income? Select one.
- Example #2: Which of the following best describes your total annual household income? Select one.
Notice the subtle difference in these questions.
The first example asks for only the respondent's income and the second example asks for the respondent's household income.
Typically responses options for questions like these are grouped in categories such as:
- Under $30,000
- $30,000 to $49,999
- $50,000 to $74,999
- $75,000 to $99,999
- $100,000 to $149,999
- $150,000 or more
Occasionally, market researchers will include a "Prefer not to answer" option.
This may keep respondents who would otherwise close out of a survey engaged.
Another way to keep respondents from closing out of a survey when asking for personal information is to allow them to skip a question.
Similar to income, this question asks respondents for personal and sensitive information about themselves.
Below is an example of how to ask about race in a market research survey:
- Example: Which of the following best describes you? Select all that apply.
Response options for this question typically include:
- Black or African American
- Hispanic or Latino
- Native American or Alaska Native
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
For this question, "Other" can be an option for respondents to select if they prefer not to answer or do not feel represented.
5. Educational Attainment
Wondering how much education a respondent has completed?
Below is an example of how to ask about educational attainment in a market research survey:
- Example: What is the highest level of education you have completed? Select one.
Response options for this question typically include:
- Some high school, no diploma
- High school diploma or GED
- Some college, no degree
- Associate (2-year) degree
- Bachelor’s (4-year) degree
- Master’s degree
- Doctorate degree
6. ZIP Code of Residence
If you are wondering where a survey respondent lives, collecting ZIP codes is a quick and easy way to get this information.
Responses to demographic survey questions like these can be used to create a heat map (which makes areas where more respondents live darker on a map) or a dot density map (which places a dot on a map for each ZIP Code).
Below is an example of how to ask ZIP Code in a market research survey:
- Example: What is the ZIP code of your primary residence? Enter a 5-digit ZIP Code.
A small text box is provided for respondents to write their ZIP code in.
Depending on where the market research is conducted, instructions on how to enter ZIP Code may be updated.
7. Employment Information
Business-to-business and business-to-consumer market research users often like to ask about employment information, industry respondents work in, or job titles.
Below are three examples of how to ask for employment information in a market research survey:
- Example #1: Which of the following best describes your employment status? Select one.
- Example #2: Which of the following best describes the industry you work in? Select one.
- Example #3: What is your job title? Open-ended comment box.
Response options for example #1 typically include:
- Employed full-time
- Employed part-time
Response options for example #2 can include a custom list of industries or a general list of industries.
This is such an important question when designing a market research survey.
Ideally, demographic questions should be placed toward the end of the survey.
When asking about demographics, researchers typically place these at the end of the survey. Sometimes, demographic questions can make participants feel a bit uncomfortable.
Instead of starting off with questions that may cause the participant discomfort, these come at the end of the project.
The benefits of including demographic questions at the end of a survey include:
- Creating a comfortable environment. If the participant gets too uncomfortable and drops out, they’ll have gone through the rest of the survey and hopefully provided some useful information. Creating a comfortable environment for the respondent can help them be open with demographic information.
- Creating a rapport or relationship first. If the survey is conducted over the phone, they will have hopefully developed a comfortable relationship with the interviewer.
- More important questions are answered first. Lastly, asking demographic questions last sets a survey up for success by asking more pertinent questions about the topic of the study first. This helps ensure that if someone starts the survey but does not complete it, the most important questions have the highest probability of being answered.
More specifically, sensitive information such as income or zip codes should be asked at the very end when compared to demographic questions such as age and gender.
Doing so ensures nearly every other question has been answered, which decreases the risk of drop-off.
⚠️ There is always an exception to every rule. ⚠️
Any demographic question that will be used to screen for qualified participants or respondents should be placed at the beginning of the survey.
In other words, don’t waste a participant’s time by asking them a bunch of questions only to disqualify them at the end of the survey for being outside of the target audience.
Although there are several benefits to asking demographic survey questions, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.
After all, we are asking for personal and identifiable information that can make some survey respondents feel uncomfortable.
Here are some tips to consider when designing demographic survey questions:
Tip #1: Limit the number of demographic questions
Your survey needs to be short and concise to keep respondents engaged and ensure increased response rates.
Remember! Highly engaged respondents lead to greater numbers of responses which mean better data.
A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of demographic questions to no more than 10% of the total survey questions.
For example, if a survey has 20 questions, it may be appropriate to include 2-3 demographic questions.
Therefore, survey writers should not ask a bunch of demographic questions in a survey questionnaire unless those questions are necessary.
Tip #2: Find out if that data has already been collected
If demographic data has already been collected from the audience you wish to survey, market research companies are able to tie that information to survey responses after survey fieldwork is complete.
For example, this data may exist in your customer database or CRM.
Again, our goal as survey writers are to keep surveys as short and concise as possible.
Tip #3: Determine how you will use the demographic information
Ask yourself if the demographic information is absolutely necessary.
It's easy to get into the mindset of adding demographic survey questions for the sake of collecting more information but try not to fall into this trap.
Only collect information needed for a specific objective of the research such as advertising insight, audience segmentation, and so on.
A simple example is collecting demographic information regarding gender.
It's commonplace to ask this in the demographic portion of the survey but many times it is never used.
Will you adjust your marketing strategy based on what males and females say differently? In many cases, no.
Including demographic survey questions in any market research study provides valuable insights into the characteristics of a particular population or market.
Whether you're a marketer, researcher, or business owner, knowing the demographics of your target audience is crucial for developing effective strategies and making informed decisions.
As we've seen, there are many different types of demographic survey questions you can ask, depending on your goals and the specific population you're interested in.
From age and gender to income and education level, each demographic factor can reveal unique patterns and trends that can help you better understand your audience.
Drive Research is a full-service market research company located in Upstate New York. Our team of senior market research professionals partners with brands across the globe to design, execute, and analyze custom online surveys.
Interested in partnering with Drive Research for an upcoming project? Contact us below.
- Message us on our website
- Email us at [email protected]
- Call us at 888-725-DATA
- Text us at 315-303-2040
As a Research Manager, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.
Learn more about Emily, here.