As part of its research-on-research efforts, the Insights Association’s IDEA Council has published “The Evolution of Demographic Questions”, a position paper on how to ask demographic questions on Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Race and Ethnicity. The publication provides extensive review of current practices and how they are applied; initial recommendations on how to ask demographic questions today; and suggests questions and elements that need to be tested.

The IDEA Council is collaborating with insights organizations within and outside the United States who also are working to bring greater diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) to the industry.

“Research is needed to ensure that as an industry we are asking demographic questions the right way—to be inclusive, to not alienate our respondents, and to not create any biases,” commented Melanie Courtright, CEO of the Insights Association.

Acknowledging that this terminology is evolving, and more research is required, the paper outlines issues that need to be addressed, and provides recommended questions as well as alternative questions being explored but not yet tested.

For example, the definition of gender has become more fluid, especially among younger generations who do not necessarily find that they fall into the traditional binary gender categories. As this field is still evolving, there are many difficulties in crafting updated questions around gender—everyone does not fit neatly into one category, nor is everyone familiar with the newer terminology that is being used.

Next Steps
The IDEA Council will work with other industry organizations and companies (including in other countries) to conduct research to test alternative ways of asking gender, sexual orientation, and race and ethnicity.

The IDEA Council’s goal is to test questions and make recommendations to help inform when to use these questions and how they will impact sample design and quotas. The group plans to test alternative questions to understand how respondents understand the response options and self-identify, what their experience is with the questions, and how the questions map to single-select traditional questions for sample design purposes.

Get Involved: If you would like to collaborate, share your own research in this area, contribute resources,, and help bring recommendations to the insights industry, please contact the IDEA Council.

Logica Research wrote this paper on behalf of the IDEA Council with input from many professionals, including Michaela Mora of Relevant Insights, who provided initial content and review. Contributors include: Gongos, Kantar, Ipsos, Schlesinger, Zebra Strategies, Organon, M/A/R/C Research, NORC, AmeriSpeak, Electrolux, BET, Prudential and academics from Stanford and Pepperdine, as well as IDEA Council members.

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