I recently completed a survey in which the demographic questions were asked at the end instead of the beginning. I assume that this is because there are no specific screening questions for the purpose of the study, or that there was a particular reason for doing this.

It seems like the convention is to ask these types of questions at the beginning rather than the end of the survey, but I wonder if the benefit of having people commit to answering questions and then putting the more personal questions at the end results in a higher response rate or not.

In this specific case there was an incentive involved for the participant (i.e. a prize draw if the survey is completed) so I don't know if this affects the way the survey question order has been designed.

Is there a significant difference in where the screening or demographic questions are placed in a survey? Are there studies on the resulting response rate to support the practice of putting them at the beginning?

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    Depends what was the intention of the author. In general demographics questions are put in the beginning because one of the first steps in surveys is to profile respondents. Without demographics (considering dropouts in the process) you can't do the profiling part of the analysis. Of couse, if you have a small sample, which is not sufficient for profiling, you'd be happy for the few unprofiled responses you get as a probing exercise. However, notice that exploratory questioning is usually more useful when it contains open questions, rather than multiple choice, as you don't know your audience.
    – mapto
    Nov 21, 2018 at 9:58
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    My (limited) experience is against what you claim is a convention: the surveys I can remember tended to have the demographic questions at the end ("Thanks for your responses, please tell us a bit about yourself so we can better understand our customers" or some such). The idea this conveyed was that the main part of the survey was what mattered (views on the store etc.) and the demographic stuff was an "added bonus" to help them categorise customers, but was entirely optional.
    – TripeHound
    Nov 21, 2018 at 11:55
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    @TripeHound As usual: it depends. But to be more clear let me try to put my comment in your context by reiterating it this way: If for you it is enough to know how customers feel it is one thing. But if it is important what part of customers feel this way, because we know that others might feel differently, it is a completely different matter. Again, for smaller populations the first is generally enough, but as one grows, and the customer population expands, one inevitably confronts the second question.
    – mapto
    Nov 21, 2018 at 12:23

1 Answer 1


According to Nielsen Norman Group Point #8, surveys should place their most important questions at the front. Survey drop-off is real (not everyone finishes a survey) and incomplete survey data is often saved. This maximizes the amount of responses collected for the most critical information. In the case of this survey, it is likely that demographic data was interesting, but not the most critical information needed.

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    I was thinking the same. You decide to take a survey about some topic, and the first thing it does is have you answer questions that are (to you) off topic. Of course if the survey is very long and the demographics questions are at the end, that's where some people will just give up and abandon the survey.
    – Tim Holt
    Jun 17, 2020 at 21:13

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