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The 10 Best Demographic Survey Questions You Need to Ask

Parvathi Vijayamohan

5 min read

They said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Sitting at your desk without a rose in sight, it’s hard to tell if that smell belongs to a rose or not. Maybe it is the new room freshener. Or perhaps it could be the genetically modified yeast in your coworker’s perfume. You need a name, and quick.

This is what survey data looks like stripped of all demographic information – without context or meaning. That’s why demographic survey questions are crucial for any sort of research. In this article, we’ll talk about demographic questions and the top 10 ones to ask.

What is a demographic survey question?

Asking for personal information is always awkward. But demographic survey questions help fish out personal information quickly and painlessly.

This personal information, in bulk, is what survey researchers call demographic information, and it helps them visualize the people who filled out their surveys. Demographic information examples include income, religion, political beliefs, and sexual orientation.

When searching online, you may have noticed the number of demographic questions to choose from. But, how do you know which one to ask? After all, your respondents have only a little time to spare, and they are not going to finish if you overload them with questions. So in the next step, we’ll talk about the 10 best demographic survey questions you need to ask.

10 best demographic survey questions

Age

Age is one of the shortcuts to predict your target group’s preferences. For example, let’s say that your audience are teenagers. Their preferred social media channels will include TikTok and Snapchat. But if your customers are close to their fifties, they might be more comfortable with Facebook.

If you’re new on the market, asking about age is a given because you’ll want to know how old the respondent is, and whether they fit your target group. However, people might not feel comfortable revealing their exact age. So some diplomatic ways to ask are by using age ranges instead, or requesting their date of birth.

Demographic survey question: age

Ethnicity

To be clear, ethnicity is different from race. Race refers to the physical traits of a group like hair type and skin colour while ethnicity also includes cultural traits like tribal affiliation, nationality, religion, language and traditions.

Ethnicity helps you figure out how to communicate with your audience because a person’s ethnicity can influence their responses. For this demographic survey question, it’s a good idea to add an “Other  – please specify” answer choice. This option gives respondents the freedom to self-identify. It also saves you from the impossible task of including all ethnic groups – six hundred and fifty at the last count.

Gender

While gender is a sensitive issue, there are certain cases where it is not only required but can also be helpful. For example, at SurveySparrow, gender is irrelevant. We are a survey software, anyone can sign up for it. But a footwear company wants to know the gender of their target audience for product reasons. So do surveys for diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as medical surveys.

So, use this one wisely, and make sure you’re using the right lingo. Gender is a loaded topic at the best of times, and a simple way to be more inclusive is to include an ‘I prefer not to say’ or an ‘Other’ option.

Household composition

Household composition is a description of a household according to certain characteristics like number and type of occupants, relationship structure, presence or absence of kids, average income and so on.

As a demographic survey question, it matters because a person’s purchase habits can be influenced by the people (or lack thereof) in their home. For example, married couples with kids will respond differently from cohabiting couples. What’s more, the number of kids and their age ranges will also influence the types of purchases. So this demographic survey question can help you spot the potential market size for certain goods and services.

Employment status

A person’s employment status affects their buying power, obviously. But from an organization’s point of view, it also determines the type of benefits an employee is entitled to. For instance, a full-time employee will be afforded certain legal protections that a part-timer doesn’t get.

When you craft this question, it should ideally reflect today’s post-pandemic job scenario of remote work, online work and gig jobs. You can also enable respondents to select more than one answer. Depending on their situation, they could be juggling two or three jobs to make ends meet.

Demographic survey question: employment status

Location

Knowing where your audience is can open up opportunities for location-based marketing. Who knows, you might also discover customers in places you wouldn’t expect!

Location data also offers something else – an opportunity for businesses to continuously improve customer experience.

Imagine you’re wandering through a store when your phone buzzes. It’s an alert from the store. What does it say? It’s a promotional advertisement for items in the aisle you’re in.

This is what’s called beacon marketing. Using location data, retailers send customers targeted ads for items in their immediate vicinity.

Kirill Tšernov, Qminder

Profession/Job Role

Soldier, sailor, tinker or tailor? Or perhaps a wily job seeker? You probably are if you are have been spending a lot of time on Glassdoor lately. You’ll know then, that Glassdoor is a great reference point for negotiating your next pay. With a quick search, you can find out the average salary in your area for a particular job role.

But job role data isn’t just useful for benchmarking salaries. It can also help B2B customer outreach, and allow marketers to target the right people. What’s more, job role data also helps HR people identify the skills and abilities necessary for that role.

Language

Does your marketing speak your customer’s language? If not, chances are that they will miss out on vital information, or get things just plain lost in translation.

Also, if your business operates globally, it helps consumers if you ask about their preferred language. For example, you’re a sustainable furniture brand based in Toronto. But you discovered a large community for your products in Sweden. You can translate your EU landing pages and key product pages to Swedish.

Income

Knowing your audience’s spending power has obvious benefits for businesses. With this information, you can customize the pricing, branding and packaging of your services.

Like the age question, you can phrase the answers as ranges to encourage more responses.

Education

This is a vital demographic survey question because it provides insights into the kind of work that a respondent may be doing.

The key word is may. One’s career path may not necessarily reflect their education. So for more meaningful data, it’s best to pitch this question with the job role question above.

Why do we ask demographic questions?

  • To find out the factors that influence a respondent’s answers, interests, and choices.
  • Determining how well your respondents represent your target audience.
  • To compare the survey results against what is known about the total population. That helps you confirm if you reached the right audience.
  • To gather key profiling information that will let you visualize the ideal customer.
  • To compare results between sub-groups of respondents (employers vs employees, enterprises vs startups, etc.) to see if, and how, they differ. With tools like SurveySparrow’s user grouping and dashboards, you can visually compare sub-groups to see how the data varies.
  • To get a read on your respondent’s characteristics so that you can target them with better messaging.
  • Customizing positioning and products to a specific user group.
  • To determine the next step for development. This is a standard practice in business, financial investments and community development.

Wrapping up

For tips to gather more meaningful information, read this guide to the 12 types of survey questions.

If you’re not sure where to start or what demographic survey questions to include, here’s a demographic survey template to give you a headstart. You can sign up for a free account to use all our templates or create your custom demographic study with SurveySparrow. Happy surveying!

Parvathi Vijayamohan

Growth Marketer at SurveySparrow

Fledgling growth marketer. Curious about all things SaaS. Aunty to a naughty beagle.

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