UK Poly Mailing List Demographic Survey Results

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Summary

An anonymous demographic survey of the uk-poly email list in 2012 had 49 responses and gave an indication of the composition of the list for various diversity strands. Questions on current relationship structures and future desires for relationship types gave a broad range of answers that the researcher found resistant to simple categorisation.

Method

I ran a survey for members of the uk-poly email list between 26 June and 17th July 2012. I asked 14 demographic questions and asked participants for comments about the survey. All of the questions allowed open-ended text responses and were anonymous. The questions and how the survey was announced are reproduced below.

I would like to thank members of the UK based poly activists email list for help in refining the questions, the final choice of which was my own. The survey was carried out online using the Surveymonkey tool.

I analysed the results according to what seemed to me to be easily divisible and useful categories and comment where questions gave answers that I felt resisted such categorisation. Where participants gave answers covering more than one category of my analysis, I count their responses in all of the categories they mention. For example someone calling themselves male genderqueer I count as both male and genderqueer.

Cohort

uk-poly is an email list for polyamorous people in United Kingdom and closely aligned others. The list is for members only, we have a vetting procedure by members for joining based on showing a connection to UK and an understanding of polyamory.

Results

I had 49 participants (the uk-poly list contained 289 subscribers at the time of the survey).

Age varied from 24 to 61 with a mean of 40 and median of 38.

65% said they had no disability, 10% had health conditions or state recognised disability but did not call themselves disabled, 12% considered themselves disabled and 12% listed health conditions but did not comment on whether they called themselves disabled or were unsure.

47% said their gender was male, 2% male and trans, 49% female / woman, 2% female / woman and trans, 4% intergender and 8% genderqueer.

84% said their gender was not different from that gender assigned at birth, 12% said it was different, 6% gave more complex answers or said it was not applicable.

61% have no children or person childcare responsibilities, 35% have children or personal childcare responsibilities and 4% are responsible adults for others’ children.

2% preferred not to answer about their race / ethnicity, 92% are white / Caucasian / Anglo, 10% call themselves English, 57% British, 8% Scottish, 2% Irish, 2% Welsh, 6% European, 2% Latin, 4% Jewish and 16% gave other details including family background, more specific location and mixture.

For religion 39% were athiest, 12% agnostic, 10% humanist, 16% “none”, 2% shamanistic, 4% Buddhist, 8% Pagan, 6% Earth or Eco based, 4% None plus Christian background, 2% None plus Jewish, 8% Quaker, 2% did not answer, 2% Satanist, 2% Christian, 2% Spiritual and 2% Chao-Erisian Thelemite.

For sexuality 35% said they were straight / het., 55% bi / pan / fluid, 16% queer, 2% lesbian, 12% polyamorous, 8% kinky, 4% Sapio / person, 2% vanilla and 6% used other terms such as “broody”, “undecided” and “sexual.”

33% identified as working class, 4% upper working, 59% middle / medium, 4% upper middle, 6% lower middle, 16% as other categories including “student” and changed or mixed classes and background and 8% chose not to answer or do not identify with a class.

Relationships now and future relationships I found diverse and the hardest questions to reduce to categories.

Relationships now included: None; close friendships only; non-monogamous Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; long term poly triad marriage; married with no current secondary or effectively mono; married / live-in partnership now non-sexual plus other sexual relationships; polyamorous mentioning one partner; married to someone monogamous and having a variety of other relationships; seeing someone who is cheating on another relationship; polyamorous mentioning a live in partner plus other partners; open poly structure with a variety of relationships; sex limited by disability; evolving, fuzzy friendships and sexual and/or romantic connections without privileging a certain shape or connection; live-in long term triad plus secondaries; non-monogamous long distance; non-monogamous local plus less regular long distance; multiple long-term committed; long term relationships plus some group sex and several non-hierarchical relationships.

Future relationships included wanting cloud / network; stable primary for child rearing plus secondary; communicative, (re-)negotiated and anti-jealousy; happy as it is now (several mentions); various shapes including a commune; poly with 2 or 3 partners; open mesh polyfamily; as now plus more sexual or BDSM [1] connections; poly relationships / commune plus children; multiple relationships with own living space too; flexible according to time, energy and inclination; as now and keeping primary plus others; local; sexually connected long term group; relationship anarchy, non-hierarchical poly; add partner of specific gender and don’t know.

Where people live had 65% urban, 16% rural, 33% suburban.

Highest level of academic education was currently taking a degree or not having a degree for 18%, 35% said they had a degree, 47% held a postgraduate qualification.

For migration 1% did not answer, 55% had no recent history of migration, 12% answered yes, 22% mentioned migration within UK and 10% mentioned migration to UK from elsewhere.

Other comments included multiple expressions of appreciation of the free text answer format and that the survey was being carried out. One found the questions represented largely the concerns and aspirations of the white middle class, mirroring the email list, and that those outside a list of “worthy” groups were invisible or “enemy”. One found the questions badly worded and another that questions were ambiguous requiring complex answers.

Suggestions for further questions included: languages known & used, political orientation, access to media & communications, events people might be interested in, how the dynamics of various of aspects of identity are represented in relationships and how mixed dynamics play out, relationship history over a child’s lifetime, childcare plans and realities, how “out” people are in different spheres, long term fidelity, relationships between metamours and how poly and BDSM [1] overlap.

Raw data

If other people want to use the anonymous data they are welcome to as long as they say where they got it and make any sampling, alteration or interpretation of the data clear.

Researcher positioning

As a volunteer I have administered the uk-poly email list for approximately a decade and have organised events for polyamorous and non-monogamous people several times.

At the time of organising the survey I am 41 with no disability, male as was assigned to me at birth. I don’t have any children or ongoing childcare responsibilities other than a “godchild”. I am white, English, atheist secular humanist and bisexual / kinky / queer. I don’t identify as a particular class. I live with my partner of 12 years and have other lovers (1 man, the rest women) some of whom I have regular visits with, some I am in regular contact with but see occasionally and some I see as playpartners and friends without regular contact. I am flexible about future relationships but think I strongly prefer poly and openness to new friends and sexual / play connections which could eventually become ongoing. I live in a suburban area. I hold a Masters degree. In terms of migration, my Great Grandparents were Jewish in Eastern Europe.

This research follows my personal interest and is self-funded and independently run.

Conclusions

I found the types of relationships people were in or would like to be in quite varied and this suggests to me that tailored further investigation of multiple poly styles might be more fruitful than a “one size fits all” approach to poly relationship shapes and evolution.

The proportions of people on the list for various diversity strands could be compared against wider population statistics and further demographic or other surveys could be taken of other poly community groups. Intersections between respondents’ replies to the questions might also be of interest.

Using open ended questions was mostly appreciated by those responding though that meant that later categorisation relied more on the views of the researcher.

Where there appears to a lack of a particular group represented in poly community we could look for any perceived barriers people in that group experience and, if we want a poly community for all, we could work on reducing any such barriers and biases. I am personally concerned about how poly community approaches race / ethnicity. I also note the lack of anyone responding as a gay man despite non-monogamy being a widely understood concept in the gay communities that I connect with.

We could also look at areas of overlap with certain demographics as opportunities for outreach and mutual learning or see if there are common factors in membership of a group and being polyamorous or non-monogamous.

Thank you to all who took part in this research.

Grant Denkinson – 2012-08-24.

Text of survey

Survey announcement

I suspect poly community events, lists etc. are biased towards certain groups of people compared to wider society. I’d like to find out how true that is and then we could think about why that might be, whether we wish to change it (or at least signpost people to more appropriate spaces) and if we feel some new projects would be useful.

This survey is to find out some information about people on the uk-poly list. The survey is being organised by me, Grant Denkinson, and members of the uk-poly email list are invited to take part. You don’t have to take part and you can stop taking part while filling it in or not answer any questions you don’t want to answer.

The data will be made available in a way that should not identify anyone filling in the survey personally. The data will be shared on the uk-poly list and elsewhere and if other people want to use the anonymous data they are welcome to as long as they say where they got it and make any sampling, alteration or interpretation of the data clear.

I am doing this survey out of personal interest and to check if our assumptions of who poly community are are accurate. Any costs to run the survey are being met by me on a personal basis. It is not being run together with any other people or organisations.

I hope many of you will take part:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BNCKSNW

Grant

Questions asked

  1. How old are you?
  2. Do you consider yourself to be disabled? If so, will you share what impairments you have?
  3. How would you describe your gender?
  4. Is that gender different from what it was assigned at birth? If so would you say more?
  5. Do you have children or personal responsibility for kids? If so, would you say what children you have connection to (age, relationship to them)?
  6. How would you describe your race and ethnicity?
  7. How would describe your religion or spirituality, or non-religious position?
  8. How would your describe your sexual orientation or identity?
  9. How would you describe your social class?
  10. What sort of relationships are you currently in?
  11. What sort of relationship structure(s) would you like to be in?
  12. Do you live in a rural, urban or suburban place, or somewhere else?
  13. What is your highest level of academic education?
  14. Do you have a personal history of migration, or migration in your recent family history?
  15. Any comments about this survey?

References

[1] BDSM: B&D = “bondage & dominance” or “bondage & discipline” D&S = “dominance & submission” S&M = “sadism & masochism”

About Grant Denkinson

Grant works in Astronomy / Physics with computers and as a psychotherapist. Blog: skibbley.dreamwidth.org

One Response to UK Poly Mailing List Demographic Survey Results

  1. Natalya says:

    Thanks for doing this. Any kind of surveying is a minefield. I’m not a member of this list myself but I did something similar and simpler for a list I admin about 7 years ago and it is interesting to see someone in a similar position doing the same thing.

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