The 2014 AVEN Community Census was far from the first asexual community survey to be conducted. Asexual community surveys have been conducted at least as far back as 2008. Here we present a brief history lesson on various surveys, and what we learned from them. If you’re just interested in the results, see the end of the post.
The first community survey we know of was the AVEN Survey 2008. It was organized by the AVEN Project Team (PT) to get demographic information, and to see what people wanted from the PT. It had 29 questions and got 300 responses. For a while, no analysis was published, because the questions were not written with analysis in mind, and because of privacy concerns in a small community. This even became an obstacle to creating more surveys because why make a new survey when the previous survey hadn’t been analyzed yet?
Eventually, in 2009, a small subset of the results were published. The push came from an academic article, because the author had seen an internal report and wanted to cite it. The rest of the survey remains unpublished.
Later, in 2011, Asexual Awareness Week (AAW) organized the 2011 AAW Asexual Community Census. It was essentially created for political purposes, to show that asexuals are large in number, and to argue for inclusion in the LGBT community. They got over 3400 responses, making it the largest sample of asexuals at the time. (It was later passed by the UC Campus Climate Survey, which had over 4,700 responses from asexuals, although the data from that survey has not yet been analyzed with respect to asexuality.)
Some preliminary results were published, but otherwise it remained untouched until AVEN member Siggy complained about it. Siggy was subsequently asked to do the analysis, and it was published in 2012. The 2011 AAW Census suffered from a few problems. The gender and romantic orientation questions were unwieldy, and several questions had a clear political slant that made them unusable. Furthermore, nationality and ethnicity were difficult to interpret, because they were write-in responses, and because ethnicity doesn’t translate across national boundaries. The nationality and ethnicity data were eventually published in 2014.
Following the 2011 AAW Census, AAW tried to organize the 2013 AAW Census. This was a much more ambitious project, with input from many academics and plans to get IRB approval (an independent ethics board, which is necessary to maximize legitimacy among academics). The committee lost momentum as it was writing questions.
Independently from any of the above surveys, there was another survey organized by AVENes, the Spanish-language AVEN. Encuesta AVENes is an annual survey that has been run each year since 2011, with results published too. It only tries to get responses from the Spanish-language community, and had 730 responses last year. It has largely gone under the radar in the larger asexual community because it is not in English, but as a survey that has been maintained for several years, it is a model of success.
Which leads us to the 2014 AVEN Community Census, which is the one which this blog was created for! We got over 14,000 responses, and have published a preliminary report. It is intended to be an annual survey, although history shows that things may not always work out so well.
In conclusion, there are a lot of pitfalls for a community survey organized by volunteers. It’s easy enough to get sufficient responses, but the hard part is doing analysis. In turn, it is important to write questions with analysis in mind. There are many topics that are tricky to survey correctly, and the AVEN Survey team has tried to learn from previous attempts. Nonetheless, we did not strive for perfection (history teaches us not to), and we hope that future surveys can learn from our mistakes.
Just the results: