The story goes that when confronted by apparent inconsistencies in his position the influential economist John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir”?
In this regard, I agree with Mr. Keynes. I have always argued that it is preferable to place the demographic questions at the end of the questionnaire. My feeling is that demographic questions can be intrusive at the beginning and tend to interrupt the overall flow of the questionnaire.
The other school of thought is that it is important to put the critical questions at the beginning of the survey. The premise is that if the respondent decides to quit part way through you still have obtained key information.
With increased time pressures and a flood of online questionnaires it is very difficult to persuade respondents to hang in with more demanding surveys. Therefore I am now of the view that it is important to capture that critical information up front before the respondent hits the proverbial “fatigue” wall and heads for the exit. There…I’ve changed my mind. At least I’m in good company. Thanks Mr. Keynes.