Importance of demographic questions in a survey

8 Types of Demographic Questions Your Survey Can Benefit From

You don’t need a crystal ball or a full-time clairvoyant to get to know the dreams and needs of your clients. Just ask them about it. In this article, I would like to show you some of the most impactful demographic question examples that will help you adjust your performance and plan marketing campaigns.

What Are Demographic Survey Questions?

Getting to know basic information about your customers is the first step toward meeting their needs. In the digital world, we can do it with a little help from online questionnaires. Common demographic questions are all kinds of information we collect about household income, current employment status, education level, national politics, marital status, sexual orientation, or age.

In the next few minutes, I will show you what demographic questions to ask in a survey and the business benefits you can get from doing so. While discussing specific examples, I will tell you how not to fall into traps (tips on what to do when your target audience prefer not to say a lot about themselves). I also have ready-made survey templates for you and tips on creating a questionnaire friendly to fill out.

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Why You Need to Collect Demographic Information

TL;DR: To target market.

Demographic surveys are tools to select the appropriate buyer personas for our business. Just as clients carry out market research in search of an optimal offer, companies care about choosing the right customers. With online surveys, marketers can collect demographic data about potential clients with similar needs, buying power, or annual income.

It’s called market segmentation.

While collecting demographic information, we have to keep in mind who are the survey respondents. Asking the right questions to the right audience is the first step to extracting and developing buyer personas. You need survey responses to understand their personal values and desires.

Demographic questions for students will differ from those crafted for wealthy pensioners. However, in both cases, every marketer would love to learn important cultural details, personal beliefs, and other demographic characteristics to speak the same language as the targeted audience.

Top 8 Demographic Questions Examples

We already know what demographic questions for the survey are. It’s time for a brief introduction to the most popular examples of such queries. Typical demographic questions, as you will see, refer to a broad range of data related to our everyday lives.

Age Ranges

The first demographic survey question I’d like to discuss is about the participant’s age. Why it’s so demanding and popular? Because it may reveal significant details about our target audience.

Are you into local or national politics? It is no coincidence that election staffs use different tactics to reach particular age groups. Often, a candidate (or political party) who convinces young voters bored with politics scoops the tastiest piece of the cake.

We ask about age ranges not only due to political affiliation and voting status of the younger demographic. It’s first of all a tool to segment audiences, and decide your ad spend budget and communication channels with your current and potential customers.

However, keep in mind that asking about age is one of the sensitive demographic questions. It may be rude to ask about age directly. Some people prefer not to answer such queries. It is one of the reasons why such a survey should be anonymous.

How to ask about age? We suggest a single-choice format question with several answer options. Remember not to miss any of the survey age groups. If the respondents do not find a suitable answer for themselves, likely, they will not complete the survey.

age questions survey

Example question about the age of respondents.


Another very sensitive question but an important one in terms of market research. Again, we ask for gender in the survey to adjust our offer for the client’s needs and create campaigns that matter for survey participants.

Be careful with this demographic question. Ten-twenty years ago we could type “sex” instead of “gender” and provide respondents with two answer options. Nowadays such biological distinction may be offensive. You don’t want that in your own survey. Pay attention to respondents’ comfort and give them a wide range of possible answers.

Some of them may prefer not to answer such a demographic question (just like the one about sexual orientation). Respect that to give yourself a chance for better survey results.

gender question survey

Example question about gender.


Statistically speaking, this is one of the most important questions concerning the population’s characteristics. Does your typical client have a master’s degree? Or maybe most of the survey takers are blue-collar workers or uneducated 30-year-old males with the highest degree of laziness, still living with their parents?

That’s a difference, that might tell you a lot about their disposable income, moral values, primary language, employment status, market research needs, and provide you with other specific demographic data.

Insights about education completed are also a decisive factor regarding the next demographic questions you are going to ask in your questionnaire. Professional survey software, like Startquestion, enables its users to ask different survey questions, depending on previously provided answers.

How to ask education level questions in a survey? Remember to provide all possible answer options. It’s not as controversial as questions about gender or age, so the box “prefer not to say” probably wouldn’t be necessary.

You may always provide it as an answer option.

education question survey

Example question about education level.


Why should we bother with location survey questions?

If you are running an international business, you may find out that you have clients in specific countries. Each of them has its own culture and communication differences. The better you know them, the better you’ll address your offer to the given market.

Such demographic survey questions may also give you a hint about where your potential international audience occupies.

Another reason relates to local customers. Suppose you have a restaurant with a delivery option only in your town. You may change that and adjust your rules when realizing that you have a significant group of potential clients just a couple of miles away from town borders.

location question survey

Example question about location.

Employment Status

The participant’s employment status is meaningful demographic data.

Survey questions regarding the role, experience, industry, organization type, or brand may provide marketers with plenty of information, highly desired for targeting purposes. However, we should be careful with any employment status survey question.

I prefer not to say how much I earn. What about you?

It’s a sensitive matter. Of course, it would be great to know the annual household income of survey respondents, but they may not want to share this information with anyone. Be smart. Don’t ask directly for the participant’s income. Do some workaround, asking more safe questions that will give you hints about the respondent’s salary.

Try to be polite and make each survey taker feel comfortable. Bare in mind that you will send the same demographic survey to both employed and unemployed respondents.

employment question survey

Example question about employment status.

Household Size

Yet another impactful demographic question is about family and place of living. Marketers would love to understand not only the household income level of each customer but also where they live and how many children they have.

Why it’s so important? Because such demographic surveys can provide you with knowledge about respondents’ ability and willingness to spend money on your products or services. If you run a toy shop, you’d probably like to know that your statistical client has children.

Again, asking directly about household income may be unpolite, so try to figure out how to collect the data you need differently. For instance, by asking how many dependents the survey respondent has or similar household size survey question.

household questions survey

Question about household size.

Marital Status

Depending on a survey topic, you may want to ask about marital status. Even though it’s tempting, asking about marital status is also a sensitive demographic survey question. Some respondents may prefer not to say a lot about their private life.

However, the relationship status survey question is a source of data about customers’ habits and everyday spending. Married people buy a different range of products than singles. Understand their priorities to craft the best offer.

maritial status survey

Example question about marital status.


Speaking about the problematic demographic survey questions to ask. The last example I’m going to mention is related to ethnicity. Try to ask it only when it’s really significant, and you can’t go without it.

When to ask about race? In multinational countries. Or when you do a global survey. Remember about the “prefer not to say” box and the possibility to provide an answer by respondents on their own.

Be delicate, and, again, ask that demographic question only if necessary.

ethnicity question survey

Example question about ethnicity.

Check out our demographic survey example and try it for free!

How to Create a Good Survey

A demographic survey must first and foremost be a good questionnaire.

We already know what and why we want to ask our respondents. Now let me show you the main principles that survey authors should follow to make their questionnaires user-friendly.

12 Principles of a Professional Survey:

  • Select survey topic (demographic survey)
  • Keep it short (5 minutes to complete is enough)
  • Use as many closed questions as possible
  • One issue per question (don’t ask about marital status and household income at once)
  • Don’t suggest answers
  • The fewer mandatory questions, the better the survey is
  • Order of questions matters
  • Make completing your questionnaire a logical experience
  • Do a pilot study (ask colleagues to complete your demographic survey)
  • Write a short welcome text to survey takers
  • Select the appropriate study group
  • Notify respondents what you are going to do with survey results

Ready to Conduct Your First Demographic Survey?

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Dariusz Jaroń
Content marketing specialist and author of non-fiction books with many years of experience in B2B writing, journalism, and translations. Beginner marathon runner and intermediate mountain hiker. When he isn't writing or jogging, he's probably trying to learn Italian.