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Bogardus Social Distance Scale: Definition, Survey Questions with Examples

Kate Williams

Last Updated:  

5 June 2024

7 min read

What is Bogardus social distance scale and how does it help?

We live in a small world; you know. And it’s getting smaller day by day.

People from one end of the world are working in tandem with those on the opposite end. It’s a magnificent sight to see everyone getting along so well. But once in a while, we hear cases of racial and ethnic abuse or discrimination against women at work.

We’re living in 2022, having just got out of a pandemic, and these are not the news that should make headlines. Especially not in the future. We need warmth and empathy from people in the future.

That is where a Bogardus social distance scale helps. What is it, how does it help, the questions to ask, characteristics, and more? We’ll discuss it all here. But you can’t enjoy the read without a cuppa. So, grab one, and let’s begin.

Bogardus Social Distance Scale Definition

A Bogardus social distance scale measures the degree of closeness people feel towards members from a diverse social, ethnic, or racial background. It demonstrates the degrees of warmth, hostility, indifference, or intimacy between people.

They named this scale after Emory Bogardus, who devised it in 1924. What’s truly fascinating is that it’s one of the oldest yet regularly used psychological attitude scales. Because of its unidimensional nature, any prejudice towards a community is promptly measured at a specific time.

Another intriguing aspect of the Bogardus scale is that it shows cumulative results. That means if someone agrees to one item in a question, there’s an agreement with other preceding items, too.

Bogardus Social Distance Scale Survey Questions with Examples

How to use the Bogardus scale in a survey, then?

Well, it is a series of questions that captures a person’s feelings toward the member of a particular group. So, there’s a key statement, followed by seven questions with different scale values from 1 to 7 or more. Here, 1 means maximum intimacy or acceptance, and 7 is minimum intimacy or acceptance.

Let’s give you examples of different statements:

  • Statement 1: Select the option that best describes your feeling towards the climate change initiatives based on the following statements
  • Statement 2: Select the option that best describes your feeling toward your team
  • Statement 3: Select the option that best describes your feeling toward immigrants
  • Statement 4: Select the option that best describes your feeling towards a member of the ruling government

You got the gist, right? These and similar statements will be the main question followed by seven questions. The questions would remain the same for all, although their core meaning might change based on the given statement. Following on with us? Great, let’s explain the core meaning behind every question:

1. Would you be willing to marry a member of this group? (1.0)

The first of the seven questions highlight a person’s deep sense of intimacy or acceptance towards a member of a particular group, ethnicity, a group inside the government, or a specific team inside an organization. The scale value for this question is 1.

A Bogardus social distance scale can be represented in a survey like this.

Sign up for FREE to create a similar Bogardus social distance scale…

2. Would you be willing to have a member of this group as a close friend? (2.0)

For any Bogardus scale statement, if the choice is this means people are accepting towards a member or an entire group to stay and work in their circle. They consider them their friends and have no issues spending time, and developing a quality friendship with them.

However, they’re not marrying someone from this group. A wonderful friendship is the best they’re thinking about them.

3. Would you be wanting a member of this group as your neighbor? (3.0)

This question clearly shows that you don’t want to make friends with members of a particular group but accept them in your social circle. That is because you’re all right having them as your neighbor. So clearly, you don’t have the intimacy to develop friendship or love, but you accept them in your culture. That is a pretty clear stance.

4. Would you be willing to work alongside a member of this group? (4.0)

Choosing this will show you don’t have any intimacy, and neither are accepting of them in your social circles. But professionally, you are okay if a member of their group is your colleague. Basically, sharing space in a professional setting is the best you can do for them.

5. Would you be accepting a member of this group as a citizen of your country? (5.0)

You don’t want them as your friends, neighbors, or colleagues, but it’s fine if they’re a citizen of your country. So, you don’t wish to share any ties, and they can have their thing at a different place while being a fellow citizen like you. You are cool with that. That’s what choosing this question (option) shows.

6. Would you be accepting a member of this group to visit your country as a non-citizen? (6.0)

Choosing this indicates that you believe in inclusivity only when it’s a vacation of a few weeks! Apart from that, you don’t want people from different groups to be your friend, neighbors, colleague, or even a citizen of your country.

7. Would you be willing to exclude a member of this group from associating with your country? (7.0)

You don’t wanna see them anywhere near you. That’s what choosing this option highlights.

How exactly does a Bogardus social distance scale help? Bogardus scale use cases

How much can a simple scale help?

If you’re thinking this right now, the answer is a lot! A Bogardus social distance scale helps in more ways than you can think of. Let’s discuss what are those ways:

To develop the perfect culture

In an organization, it’s absolutely pivotal to have the right culture in place because growth stems from that. Using a Bogardus scale shows what employees think about their colleagues and how much they appreciate diversity.

Appreciating diversity comes from respecting other people’s ethnicity and culture, accepting it’s different from yours, and growing together from there. Conducting a survey using this social distance scale is the first step toward promoting a culture of acceptance and mutual growth.

To find future leaders

Kind, empathetic, accepting, and visionary.

For someone to be a leader in this post-pandemic world, these are the essential attributes. And all four come when there’s respect for everybody’s social, ethnic, or racial background.

A Bogardus scale survey is the best way for you and your HR team to find if an employee has the potential of a future leader. Fantastic, right? You bet!

To promote diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are how organizations will flourish in 2022 and beyond. It doesn’t matter if your employees are working remotely. You, as a leader, need to promote diversity and inclusion in every manner.

A Bogardus social distance scale helps identify employees that need more attention to start respecting diversity and inclusion. Hence, the usefulness of the Bogardus scale will only increase, as organizational diversity and inclusion are how sustained growth will happen.

Read more: Diversity and inclusion survey questions.

To improve bonding

Not everything in a team is always right. And it’s fine!

When different people work together on the same goal, they’re bound to have different thoughts and ways of working. And that gets influenced by their social interactions and circles as well.

In that case, it’s essential to find the differentiating factor by conducting employee surveys (SurveySparrow is the best at that!) and including some Bogardus scale questions to see if they all respect everyone’s ethnicity and culture. Because these are where the differences start and they take an ugly road quickly.

To bring out a message

When we stand together, it’s that much harder to break us than when we’re alone. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that, and organizations conducted Bogardus scale surveys to identify if their target audience honored cultural, social, and ethnic differences or not.

The survey results brought out some interesting results based on which they pivoted to send out the message of equality and acceptance in the times after the pandemic. People resonated with this messaging, and we saw changes en masse.

All this started with that one Bogardus scale survey! Unbelievable.

3 Prime characteristics of a Bogardus social distance scale

The ratings collected from Bogardus scale questions are cumulated and the average of this represents the value of the social distance scale. It’s a pretty simple and effective scale with these three characteristics:

Cumulative nature

The Bogardus social distance scale follows the Guttman scale (or cumulative scale) closely, as an agreement with a statement is actually an assumption of agreement with statements coming before that selection. For instance, if you were to agree to marry a Hindu, you’re giving the rating to this person as 1.0. With that, it’s assumed that you’re also agreeing for this person to be your neighbor, close friend, or even a citizen of your country. Similarly, if you agree with a rating of 5.0, you also agree on this person visiting your country as a non-citizen or not having any association with your country at all.

The 7-point scale

The Bogardus social distance scale uses this specific 7-point rating scale to track empathy between two social groups, i.e., you and that person. The lower rating of 1.0 shows minimal social distance whereas a higher rating of 6.0 shows a very high social distance between you two and your groups.

Measures social distance

The option with the rating scale of 1.0 measures the closeness of two people and their groups as a whole, and the option with the rating scale of 7.0 measures the distance between these two individuals and groups. So, in essence, the Bogardus social distance scale aims to measure the social distance any two groups desire to keep between them.

The advantages and disadvantages of a Bogardus scale

Before we wrap it up, we must talk about this. Let’s start with the advantages first:


  • Creating and administering the scale is easy. The complication can come in formulating each option on the social distance scale.
  • The Bogardus social distance scale measures all underlying thoughts between two groups of people that may range from different social, ethnic, and cultural groups. And it’s a fairly reliable test of their perceived social distance.
  • The scale measures each respondent’s feelings towards a subject. This approach helps find a rich vein of data about the empathy and acceptance levels of the two subject groups.
  • The ordinal data collected from each respondent helps establish an order of preference towards the group in observation.


  • How are the options ordered mean different to different individuals in a group, community, or family? Therefore, the validity of social distance in a Bogardus scale may not hold for an entire group. It’s taken differently by different respondents.
  • The distance between every two options is very subjective. If you observed, the distance between 3 and 4, or 6 and 7, isn’t equidistant. Also, you or we can’t really prove if rating 6.0 is double the distance of 3.0.
  • Because of the Bogardus scale’s uni-dimensional nature, there’s no scope left to get the reasoning behind all responses.
  • The Bogardus social distance scale doesn’t delve into the reason behind selecting a rating, and because of that, it’s impossible to measure the validity of responses. People might choose the same rating for all Bogardus questions that way, and you could do nothing about it.

That’s all!

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” – Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google

To be honest, we’ve experienced this firsthand at SurveySparrow. We’re a diverse bunch of folks working together to build something great. A Bogardus scale survey helped us all get on the same page, too. And it has done the same for countless other companies.

If you feel the need for it at your organization, don’t think twice before reaching out to us. We’ll help you design this social distance survey for your employees, customer, and target audience, from scratch!

Diversity and inclusion are the way forward. Remember that. We’re looking forward to helping you.


Kate Williams

Product Marketing Manager at SurveySparrow

Excels in empowering visionary companies through storytelling and strategic go-to-market planning. With extensive experience in product marketing and customer experience management, she is an accomplished author, podcast host, and mentor, sharing her expertise across diverse platforms and audiences.

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