Asking about Religion: None, Atheist, and Agnostic

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1 Asking about Religion: None, Atheist, and Agnostic Devin Van t Hof, Kristen Olson, & Jolene Smyth University of Nebraska Lincoln MAPOR Conference Nov. 2015, Chicago, IL 1

2 Acknowledgement This research was financed in part by funds provided to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln under a Cooperative Agreement with the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics service supported by the National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (58-AEU Jolene Smyth & Kristen Olson PIs). Additional funding was provided by the Office of Research and Economic Development and the Department of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2

3 Asking about Religion Commonly asked, but with little consistency o What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion (Smith, Marsden, & Hout, 2015) o Do you consider yourself as belonging to any particular religion or denomination If respondent answers yes Which one? Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Other Christian denomination, Jewish, Islamic, Eastern religions, Other non- Christian religions (European Social Survey, 2014) o With what religious family do you most closely identify? (Baylor Religion Survey, 2005) Possible problems o Varying of the question stem and response options o Assumes all non-religious fall into one group 3

4 Religious Changes in the U.S. Religious affiliation is changing in the United States(Pew Research Center, 2015) o Fewer respondents identifying as Christian (Catholic or Protestant) o Growing number of respondents identifying as unaffiliated o Unaffiliated becoming more secular o Atheists and agnostics are growing Limited research on how to ask about religion o Design of question affects respondents o Question wording affects respondents 4

5 Research Questions 1. Does adding additional unaffiliated response options affect answer distributions when asking sample members about their religion? 2. If additional unaffiliated response options affect respondents answers, what religious categories do the differences draw from? 3. What respondent characteristics help identify those who are more likely to continue to choose an affiliated response option vs. an unaffiliated response option when present with additional unaffiliated response options? 5

6 National Health, Wellbeing, and Perspectives Study (NHWPS) Data and Methodology Nationally representative, self-administered, mail survey conducted in 2015 Address-based sample of 6000 o APPOR RR1 = 16.7% (n=1002) Primarily asked questions on mental health, but also including multiple methodological experiments Included two variations on asking about religion with sample members randomly assigned to a version Version One RR = 17.4% (n=522) Version Two RR = 16.0% (n=480) 6

7 Questions Version One: None Only Version Two: None Plus 7

8 Research Question 1. Does adding additional unaffiliated response options affect answer distributions when asking sample members about their religion? 8

9 Significantly more respondents choose an unaffiliated category when offered more unaffiliated choices 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% None only None plus 30% 20% 10% 0% Affiliated Unaffiliated ** ** p =.009 9

10 Research Question 2. If additional unaffiliated response options affect respondents answers, what religious categories do the differences draw from? 10

11 Additional unaffiliated answers do not come from any one group, but a combination of groups 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% None only None plus 15% 10% 5% 0% None Atheist Agnostic Catholic Jewish Muslim Protestant Other 11

12 Research Question 3. What respondent characteristics help identify those who are more likely to continue to choose an affiliated response option vs. an unaffiliated response option when present with additional unaffiliated response options? 12

13 Odds Ratios Respondents who are older, compared to younger, and those who report higher religious attendance are more likely to identify with a religious affiliation Reference groups: < 30 Females < College degree Non-white **p =.005, ***p <

14 Odds Ratios Age differentially predicts affiliation across the two versions 6 5 ** 4 3 * None only None plus 2 1 *** *** Males College Masters+ White R. Attendance Reference groups: < 30 Females < College degree Non-white *p =.07; **p =.013, ***p =

15 Summary The additional choices of atheist and agnostic change respondents answer distribution to the religious affiliation question When given the options of atheist and agnostic, the responses did not come from the any single category. Instead these answers came from multiple places with the Catholic category having marginally significantly fewer respondents (p =.08) Respondents who chose one of the unaffiliated categories (none, agnostic, and atheist) were significantly less likely to attend religious services and to be younger. 15

16 Implications Giving more unaffiliated response options gives researches more information about respondents Researchers need to carefully consider which response options to give as respondent answers differed depending on the response options given Researchers need to be careful when comparing respondents religious affiliation across studies 16

17 Future Research Methodological o Further research can continue to look into what causes change in answer distributions o Examine adding additional (or fewer) categories o Examine the difference in responses comparing multiple step approaches to a single step approach Substantive o Further research could also investigate how changing the wording in the question stem or changing response options affect substantive answers o For example, does the unaffiliated group or affiliated groups political identity change when the response options are changed 17

18 Thank You! Devin Van t Hof 18

19 References Argue, A., Johnson, D. R., & White, L. K. (1999). Age and religiosity: Evidence from a three-wave panel analysis. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Beit-Hallahmi, B. (2004). Religion, religiosity, and gender. Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, Belli, R. F., Traugott, S., & Rosenstone, S. J. (1994). Reducing over-reporting of voter turnout: an experiment using a source monitoring framework (No. 35). NES Technical Reports. Billiet, J. (2001). European Social Survey Core Questionnaire Development Chapter 9: Proposal for questions on religious identity. London: European Social Survey, City University London. European Social Survey, (2014). ESS Round 7 Source Questionnaire. London: ESS ERIC Headquarters, Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University London Johnson, G. D., Matre, M., & Armbrecht, G. (1991). Race and religiosity: An empirical evaluation of a causal model. Review of Religious Research, Kadushin, Charles. Asking About Religion Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (2015). U. S. religious landscape survey. Washington, D.C.: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Roth, L. M., & Kroll, J. C. (2007). Risky business: Assessing risk preference explanations for gender differences in religiosity. American Sociological Review, 72(2), Sacerdote, B., & Glaeser, E. L. (2001). Education and religion. Schuman, H., & Presser, S. (1981). Questions and answers in attitude surveys: Experiments on question form, wording, and context. Sage. Smith, T. W., Marsden, P. V., & Hout, M. (2015). General Social Surveys, Principal Investigator, Tom W. Smith; Co-Principal Investigators, Peter V. Marsden and Michael Hout, NORC ed. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, 2015 Smyth, J. D., Dillman, D. A., Christian, L. M., & Stern, M. J. (2006). Effects of using visual design principles to group response options in web surveys. International Journal of Internet Science, 1(1),

20 Limitations The sample does not include enough minority races or ethnicities to examine race or ethnicity further Not representative of general population The survey only contained one question about religiosity which may not be enough to accurately measure the complexities of religiosity 20

21 Demographic Characteristics by Question Version 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% ** Version One Version Two 21

22 If an additional unaffiliated answer choice affects respondents answers, what religious categories do the differences draw from? 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% Distribution of Answers across Versions ** 15% 10% Version One Version Two 5% 0% 22

23 Logistic Regression Results Predicting Religious Affiliation Version One with response categories of None, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, or Other Variable Coefficient Odds SE P-value Age plus 1.60* Sex Males Education College degree Masters or beyond Race Non-Hispanic Whites Religious attendance.11*** Intercept *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<

24 Logistic Regression Results Predicting Religious Affiliation Version Two With Response Categories of None, Atheist, Agnostic, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, or Other Variable Coefficient Odds SE P-value Age plus Sex Males Education College degree Masters or beyond Race Non-Hispanic Whites Religious attendance.16*** Intercept *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<

25 Logistic Regression Results Predicting Religious Affiliation Variable Coefficient Odds SE P-value Age plus 1.01** Sex Males Education College degree Masters or beyond Race Non-Hispanic Whites Religious attendance.13*** Intercept *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<

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