One of the major challenges researchers face whenever they run market research surveys in Asia is figuring out whether a topic or question is culturally sensitive or not. A topic may not be explicitly taboo, but they may actually be considered taboo.
Asian consumers are so diverse that some topics are more sensitive than others to certain markets. If you run a project with sensitive content, you risk data quality since respondents are more likely to refuse to participate or outright lie in their answers.
And, in rare cases, you can even face legal or regulatory consequences as some governments may deem these survey topics illegal or contrary to existing regulations.
Fret not! We've come up with a list of taboo survey topics in Asia that you should absolutely stay away from.
7 Sensitive Survey Question Topics
Make sure that none of your questions are about sexual activity, behavior, or sexuality. Most Asian countries are conservative and wouldn't want to share their personal information. For that matter, also remove images, videos, or audio files with any form of nudity or pornography.
Obscenity and Vulgarity
Take care not to use language or ask questions that may be offensive (ex. asking if they have a criminal record). Also, avoid using speech that may be construed as actively promoting bullying or self-harm.
Violence or Gore
Descriptions or images of violence that harms, damages, or kills someone or something are often times unpleasant or disturbing to respondents. This is not recommended, especially for younger age groups.
In Muslim-populated countries, like Indonesia, gambling is considered illegal. In other countries, it is allowed but heavily restricted. So, surveys about gambling can potentially be incriminating to respondents.
Questions or statements that contain hateful speech or symbols against any cultural or ethnic group are strictly not allowed.
Narratives that incite anti-Muslim, anti-Catholic, or any other anti-religious rhetoric are also prohibited. These can be considered offensive or discriminating.
Questions about or asking for criticisms of the government, the military, or territorial disputes are extremely sensitive. Some topics may be considered more sensitive than others depending on what individual countries may deem as threats to their national security or may lead to regional unrest.
A Note of Caution on Asking Sensitive Questions
Before beginning your research project, thoroughly investigate the policies on survey research of your target market/s. Show your questionnaire to your research partner and have them check if there are any questions you should revise or remove totally from your survey. dataSpring, for example, has local expertise in Asia and beyond and can provide advice on many of the topics listed above.
Remember, when it comes to your respondents and your data, it's better to be safe than sorry.