Our team recently came across a HarrisPoll Online survey with the following question (see screen shot below):
“Gaydar” is a term commonly used to describe a person’s ability to determine whether a person is lesbian or gay. On a scale from “1 to 10,” where “1” means “Poor” and “10” means “Excellent,” how good is your gaydar?
So, what can we learn from this?
1) First off, (almost) nothing’s off limits as far as survey topics go. However, it’s important to know your audience. Try to anticipate their possible responses to questions that could come off as offensive, obtrusive, or just plain weird. “Gaydar” could seem fun and harmless to some, but off-putting to others.
2) Always be sure to define your terms. Imagine a 19-year-old Millennial explaining “gaydar” to her Boomer parents, who mistook it for the ability to determine whether a person is happy. No matter how you feel about “gaydar,” you have to give Harris credit for clearly defining it: “a term commonly used to describe a person’s ability to determine whether a person is lesbian or gay.” It’s not the most exciting wording, but it’s clear and (relatively) concise.
3) Scales are a great way to gauge respondents’ opinions, and 1 to 10 (or 0 to 10) scales are relatively easy for respondents to grasp. A scale is a great tool, and Harris gets points for that, but did they use the tool appropriately?
4) How reliable is it to rate yourself at how “good” you are at something? In this case, how would you even know if your “gaydar” is good? It’s preferable to ask about concrete, measurable behavior over a specific time period. If you want to know how fit someone is, you probably shouldn’t ask them to rate their fitness on a scale of 1-10. Instead, ask them how often they exercised over the past month, or what their dietary habits are.
5) Last but not least, when creating a survey, keep this question in the back of your mind: “What’s the point?” If the purpose of your survey isn’t clear to you, it’s unlikely to be clear to your respondents. And confused respondents don’t stick around.
What do you think about Harris’s gaydar question? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For more tips on survey design, check out our article, “How to Build a Kick-Ass Survey.”