How to create more inclusive surveys

From respondent language to their experience, the best surveys are built to be inclusive. In a broad sense, this means surveying with empathy, respect, and explicit motives. You create an inclusive survey when you’re thinking about how you ask respondents about things like religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or gender identity or when you plan a respondent journey through your survey and consider why and when they might feel excluded. This simple act makes a big difference, and they help survey creators get in the habit of thinking inclusively.

There are some general principles you can keep in mind that will give you a baseline for creating inclusive surveys:

  • Be mindful of your demographic questions

Demographic questions focus on the identities of your respondents (such as age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and income), and include them in your surveys can help you get a clearer understanding of your audience. But these questions, especially when they relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion, can feel personal. That doesn’t mean you should be afraid of asking them — but it does mean that you should be clear about why you’re asking and how you’ll use the data. Knowing this will help you create better questions that are driven by intention. Another way to make demographic questions feel inclusive is to include a fill-in-the-blank answer. When you’re asking about religious, racial, or gender identities, there’s always the risk that your respondents will fail to see themselves reflected in the answer options that you suggest. Including an option where they can write it in themselves will give them better opportunities to be “seen” and might even give you ideas for future surveys.

  • Don’t require answers to all your questions.

Rather than requiring all your survey questions, give respondents the power to skip questions that make them feel uncomfortable. This will not only respect their boundaries; it will also keep them engaged and decrease the chance of survey fatigue.

  • Use skip logic

Another useful survey setting is skipped logic, which allows you to send respondents to specific questions or pages based on how they answer a particular problem. In general, using skip logic makes your surveys stronger because it prevents respondents from seeing questions that don’t apply to them. The beauty of skip logic is that you can use it to tailor the survey experience for your respondents and develop a deeper understanding of their backgrounds and experiences.

  • Be conscious of language.

Words are powerful, and the terms and phrasing you use in your survey questions can inadvertently exclude, offend, or marginalize certain people. To avoid this, your survey questions need to reflect inclusive language.