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Tailoring general population surveys to address participation and measurement challenges of surveying lesbian, gay, and bisexual people

Mathew Stange, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Being rare and stigmatized, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people are hard-to-survey. Gaining their participation, reducing concealment of LGB identity, and accurately measuring their marital status are challenging. In this dissertation, I examine the effects that LGB-inclusive tailoring—inclusive cover image design and "same-sex" and "opposite-sex" marital status categories—has on addressing these challenges; particularly, the effect on who responds to a survey and the answers that they provide, among LGB and non-LGB people. The experiments were embedded in the 2013 Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey (NASIS), a general population mail survey of Nebraskans (n=1,608). I test how the LGB-inclusive cover design and marital status categories influenced the percent of LGB respondents; the percent of respondents who are in same-sex relationships; unit and item nonresponse; the demographic, political, and religious composition of respondents; reports to attitudinal questions about LGB issues; and how non-LGB respondents report their marital status. In the final part of this dissertation, I examine whether the red-blue state and urban-rural narratives reflect Nebraskans' opinions about LGB issues. Analyses showed that the inclusive cover design increased the percent of LGB respondents without a significant backlash from others in the population and little effect on answers to LGB issue questions. The LGB-inclusive marital status categories, however, did not address the challenges of measuring same-sex couple identity. Instead, the inclusive wording led to higher item nonresponse and to more heterosexual respondents misreporting their marital status. Additionally, I observed that Nebraska does not fit a red state narrative, with equal favorability and opposition to same-sex marriage and majority support for other LGB rights; although, I found that rural respondents reported significantly more conservative opinions than urban respondents, consistent with that frame. Overall, this dissertation suggests that inclusive cover designs might be useful for encouraging hard-to-survey populations' participation, that more research is necessary to accurately measure marital status, and that Nebraskans' opinions about LGB issues are more complex than people often assume.

Subject Area

Social research|GLBT Studies

Recommended Citation

Stange, Mathew, "Tailoring general population surveys to address participation and measurement challenges of surveying lesbian, gay, and bisexual people" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3665961.