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5 Excellent Reasons to Ask Survey Screening Questions

When sending a survey, you generally don’t want just anyone to answer. Often, depending on the topic at hand, you want to get input from a select group of people. So, how to pre-qualify survey respondents? Often, researchers use screening questions (or screeners) within their survey. Depending on how a respondent answers, screeners will either qualify or disqualify them from the survey.

What is a Screening Question?

Screening questions (and focus group screening questions) prequalify survey respondents. They are meant to narrow down a large pool of respondents to get input from only from your target audience (or to discover your target audience is different than initially thought). There are generally three types of screening questions: demographics, behavioral, industry-specific, and product-specific. Here are some examples of screening questions that are most popular with online survey researchers.


Demographic questions are the most common screeners. There are a variety of questions to ask candidates in this category, including age, gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, number of children (if any), location, occupation, education, and annual income.


Sometimes referred to as lifestyle questions, behavioral screeners—as their name implies—seek to understand your common behaviors. Depending on the purpose of the survey, behavioral screener question examples could be anything from “How many hours per week do you spend online?” to “Do you regularly vote in presidential elections?”.


These screeners are used to filter out respondents who may be biased based on the work they do, often because they work in the same industry or are close to someone who does. For example, if you’re trying to get honest feedback on a new energy bar, you may wish to eliminate respondents who work in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, and so forth. 

Product- or Service-Specific

These questions for candidates are used to eliminate respondents for whom the product or service is not intended. For example, say you’re a hotel chain considering changing your pet policy to allow certain sized dogs and are wondering how much extra people would be willing to pay. Your screener might ask the weight of the dog, and any respondent with a dog greater than 20 lbs would not qualify.

Benefits of Screening Questions for Surveys

Screeners are very valuable for researchers. Here are the top five advantages of using survey screening questions.

1. Increased Cost-Savings

Regardless of the method of surveying you choose, generally, the more people you survey, the more it will cost you. Screening questions help eliminate respondents who don’t fit your target audience. And, when they’re disqualified in the screening process, you generally don’t have to pay up.

2. Improved Data Analysis 

Without screening questions, researchers will need to weed out unqualified respondents on their own following the conclusion of the survey. This is time-consuming and wastes resources.

3. Elimination of Respondent Bias

Respondents who aren’t qualified to answer your particular set of questions based on their background, behavior, or industry may answer questions in a way that suits them, or just select random answers, skewing results. Weeding these respondents out helps preserve the quality of response to your surveys.

4. Improved Respondent Experience

Respondents thrust into a survey that has little relevance to them are bound to get frustrated, dropping out of the survey, or answering questions randomly without thought. They’re also likely to take you up on other surveys down the road, feeling as though their time will be wasted once again.

5. More Reliable Databases

It’s not unusual for companies, once they’ve found survey candidates who fit their target audience, to continue to solicit these individuals when further research is needed. However, people’s personal and professional situations can change over time. By asking screening questions, you can eliminate those who once fit your specifications but now no longer do, thus improving your database.

Tips for Creating Screening Questions for Surveys

A couple of quick tips when considering screening questions for candidates:

  • Start your survey with screening questions to weed out unqualified candidates immediately (and to avoid wasting respondents’ time).
  • Include enough screeners to improve the quality of responses; only asking one or two may not narrow down your survey sample enough for accuracy.
  • Always be specific with your online pre-screening questions to ensure non-qualifying respondents don’t slip into the mix. But, don’t get too specific as to frustrate people (for example, a respondent may know they went to the doctor within the last six months, but not which specific month).

Consider using survey logic to learn more about non-qualifying respondents. Survey logic won’t immediately take them to a disqualifying page, but will instead send them to an alternate page to ask a few additional questions. This can help you learn more about an individual who may qualify for another survey down the road.

Ready to Begin Surveying?

For all your surveying needs, SurveyLegend is here for you! And for any survey, it’s important to remember that the briefer the survey, the more responses you’re likely to get. To that end, SurveyLegend even automatically collects some online pre-screening questions, such as the respondent’s location, reducing the number of questions you have to ask. 

Our surveys are beautifully rendered, pre-designed, and responsive, automatically adjusting to any screen size. Get started with your online survey using SurveyLegend for free right now.

About the Author

Jasko Mahmutovic

Born entrepreneur, passionate leader, motivator, great love for UI & UX design, strong believer in "less is more”. Big advocate of bootstrapping. BS in Logistics Service Management. I don't create company environments, I create family and team environments.

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