Surveys need to be short and concise to keep respondents engaged and ensure a higher response rate. Remember highly engaged respondents and higher response rates means better data! Therefore, survey writers should not ask a bunch of demographic questions in a survey unless those questions are necessary.
Need to get back to the basics? Here are some tips on how to write a survey.
To determine whether or not a demographic question is necessary to ask in a survey, first 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.
This data may exist in your database or CRM. Again, our goal as survey writers is to keep surveys as short and concise as possible.
Second, ask yourself if the demographic information is necessary. It's easy to get into the mindset of adding 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, etc.
A simple example is gender. It's common place to ask this in the demographics but many times it is never used. Will you adjust your marketing strategy based on what males and females say different? In many cases, no.
Below are some of the more common demographic questions used in market research surveys.
Want to know who is responding to your next market research survey?
Use these demographic questions below!
Demographic Question #1: Age
Curious about the age of survey respondents? There are a variety of ways to ask this question. The ideal way to ask age for your next market research project will depend how how the results will be used. Below are two examples of how to ask age in a market research survey.
Example #1: Which of the following best describes your age? Select one.
Example #2: What is your year of birth? Drop down box with years listed.
For the first example, 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.
The second 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.
Demographic Question #2: Gender
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 is slight. Below is an example of how to ask gender in a market research survey.
Example: Which of the following genders do you most identify with? Select one.
Demographic Question #3: Income
Income is a demographic question that asks personal/sensitive information. Below are two examples of how to ask 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 (e.g., Under $30,000, $30,000 to $49,999, $50,000 to $74,999, $75,000 to $99,999, $100,000 to $149,999, and $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.
Demographic Question #4: Race
Similar to income, this question asks respondents for personal/sensitive information about themselves. Below is an example of how to ask 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: Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, White, and other. For this question, "Other" can be an option for respondents to select if they prefer not to answer or do not feel represented.
Demographic Question #5: Educational Attainment
Wondering how much education a respondent has completed? Below is an example of how to ask 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, and Doctorate degree.
Demographic Question #6: ZIP Code of Residence
If you are wondering where a survey respondent lives, collecting ZIP Code is a quick and easy way to get this information. Responses to questions like these can be used to create a heat map (which makes areas where more respondents live darker on a map) or 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 ZIP Code do you reside in? Enter 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.
Demographic Question #7: Employment Infromation
Business-to-business and business-to-consumer market research users often like to ask about employment information, industry respondents work in, or job title. Below are three examples of how to ask 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, Student, Disabled, Retired, and Unemployed. Response options for example #2 can include a custom list of industries or a general list of industries.
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