Survey Research And Methodology Program


Date of this Version

Fall 11-24-2014


Stange, M. (2014). Tailoring general population surveys to address participation and measurement challenges of surveying lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (PhD Dissertation, University of Nebraska).


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Survey Research & Methodology, Under the Supervision of Professor Jolene D. Smyth. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Mathew Stange


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.

Adviser: Jolene D. Smyth