Survey Design and Methodological Overview

Download the Full Overview

Download the Full Overview

The LGBTQ Institute Southern Survey reports, research briefs, and fact sheets are produced by the LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Georgia State University.

  • The LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights connects academics and advocates to advance LGBTQ equity through research and education focused on the American South.

  • Georgia State University is an enterprising urban public research institution in Atlanta. A national leader in graduating students from diverse backgrounds, Georgia State provides a rich experience with award-winning housing, hundreds of student clubs and organizations, and one of the most diverse student bodies in the country.

  • Statement of Independence and Objectivity: The LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Georgia State University is committed to rigorous, independent research. We do not alter our findings and conclusions to accommodate funders, other organizations, government bodies or officials.

Suggested Citation: Wright, Eric R., Ryan M. Roemerman, and Madison Higbee. 2018. LGBTQ Institute Southern Survey: Design and Methodological Overview. Atlanta, GA: The LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Survey Preparation:

The LGBTQ Institute’s Advisory Board, a collective of LGBTQ advocates and academics, set the agenda for our work which centers on three focus areas: 1) Education and Employment, 2) Public Health and Wellness, and 3) Criminal Justice and Safety, with a specific emphasis on the Southern LGBT experience. The LGBTQ Institute and Georgia State University created a research partnership which provides experienced scholars who coordinate research initiatives in our three focus areas using a community-based participatory research model. Over the course of 2016, quarterly public meetings were held to obtain community input on key questions they would like to be asked in a survey of Southern LGBTQ people as it pertained to each focus area. More than 150 people took part in the meetings, which centered on filling the research gaps within the focus areas.

Survey Design:

By the winter of 2016, hundreds of potential questions had been submitted and the research team began designing the survey tool. The entire survey and study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Georgia State University Institutional Review Board (Approval H17451). The survey was designed to rely on passive, snowball recruitment over an approximate seven (7) month field period via a URL that was distributed between June 19, 2017 to January 13, 2018 in both English and Spanish. The completely anonymous survey was administered using Qualtrics, a survey administration package licensed by Georgia State University.

The first two sections of the survey presented potential respondents with a detailed informed consent statement, with an additional reminder regarding the risks of participating in online surveys. In this regard, recruitment of human subjects occurred entirely online via the web interface. When respondents consented to participate, they were presented with a series of required screening questions asking them to verify their age, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Respondents could select the following  for sexuality: Heterosexual, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Other Sexuality (note that Queer is included in the “other sexuality” section, as well as Asexual or anything that is not LGB or heterosexual). To understand a person’s gender, respondents were presented with a series of questions asking about their birth sex and about their current gender identity.  To simplify the presentation of this information in this report, we grouped respondents into cisgender men and women (i.e., those whose birth sex and current gender identity align), transgender, and those who used other gender identities. Therefore, you may see LGBT and LGBTQ used at different times, depending on the data being discussed.

Respondents were also asked if they resided in one of the focal 14 southern states (including both a state identifier and ZIP code). All respondents had to verify that they were adults over the age of 18 and currently resided in one of the 14 southern states before they were allowed to take the survey.

Survey Content:

The full survey took approximately 30 minutes to complete. Participation was completely voluntary, and the respondents were allowed and informed that they could skip any of the questions in the survey (except for the mandatory screening questions). Modeled after the General Social Survey (National Opinion Research Center n.d.), the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (US Census Bureau n.d.), and a Pew Research Center national survey of LGBT Americans (Pew Research Center 2013), this survey is an omnibus survey that included a range of questions about respondents’ current living situation, education and employment situation, and access to healthcare. It also included questions about subjects’ political attitudes as well as their perceptions of and involvement in the local LGBTQ community, and other topical areas. Specifically:

  1. Identity and Location Screeners (Age, State, Zip Code, Gender/Sex; Sexuality Identity (Required)

  2. Gender and Sexuality Identity Details

  3. Demographic Background

  4. Educational and Employment Background and Experiences

  5. Relationship Status, Living Situation, and Household Composition

  6. Health and Wellness

  7. Political and Social Attitudes

  8. Sexual-Gender Identity Development and Experiences

  9. LGBT Community Perceptions and Involvement

  10. LGBTQ-Related Experiences of Discrimination

  11. Veteran Status

  12. Religion

  13. Individual and Household Income

Dissemination of Findings:

In addition to analyzing the Survey data, the team is compiling data from publicly available national and state level data from sources to use in comparing the experiences of LGBTQ Southerners with other groups of Americans. The approved study team will also take the lead in preparing the planned public reports (at least one for the region as a whole and one for each of the 14 focal states) as well as manuscripts to be submitted for publication consideration in scientific and professional journals. The LGBT Institute will also be releases future analyses of this survey data exploring how different experiences, identities, and variables interact to contribute to the life experiences of LGBTQ people in the South.

With this survey and other programs at the LGBT Institute, we envision creating the needed pipeline that connects academics to advocates in order to move from research to action by providing critical, potentially actionable information to agencies and state and local governments interested in responding to the unique needs of this population. This infrastructure can assist in developing community intervention resources and bring to light real-world experiences of those who may not immediately benefit from recent legal gains, and whose issues have not been at the forefront. All of the reports and information about papers published from this study will be made publicly available here, on this website.


If you would like to discuss this further, please contact: Dr. Eric R. Wright, Principal Investigator, Georgia State University at (404) 413-6527 or or Ryan Roemerman, LGBTQ Institute Executive Director at (404) 991-6985 or


  • National Opinion Research Center. n.d. “GSS General Social Survey.” Retrieved February 13, 2017 (

  • Pew Research Center. 2013. A Survey of LGBT Americans. Retrieved February 13, 2017 (

  • US Census Bureau. n.d. “American Community Survey (ACS).” Retrieved February 13, 2017 (