Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > General Population > National > Pew Research Center > Summary


The 2008 Conversion Recontact Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, is a follow-up to the 2007 “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.” One of the most striking findings from the Landscape Survey was the large number of people who have left their childhood faith. The Landscape Survey found that more than one in four American adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised. This number includes people who have changed from one major religious tradition to another, for instance, from Protestantism to Catholicism or from Judaism to no religion. If change within religious traditions is included (e.g., from one Protestant denominational family to another), the survey found that roughly 44% of Americans now profess a religious affiliation different from that in which they were raised.

The Conversion Recontact Survey is designed to offer a fuller picture of this churn within American religion, with a special focus on the reasons that people change religious affiliation. The Conversion Recontact Survey is based on follow-up interviews with Landscape Survey respondents, including those from the largest segments of the population that have changed religious affiliation as well as those who still belong to the religious faith in which they were raised. Interviews were conducted by telephone with a nationally representative sample of 2,867 adults living in continental United States telephone households. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were conducted on landline telephones in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source (PDS), LLC from Oct. 3 to Nov. 7, 2008. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. A full report on the survey’s findings, “Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.,” is available on the Pew Forum’s website.

Data File
Cases: 2,867
Variables: 106
Weight Variable: WEIGHT
Data Collection
Date Collected: October 3, 2008 - November 7, 2008
Original Survey (Instrument)
Faith in Flux
Funded By
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Pew Research Center
Collection Procedures
Interviews were conducted from October 3 to November 7, 2008. As many as 10 attempts were made to contact every sampled telephone number. Sample was released for interviewing in replicates, which are representative subsamples of the larger sample. Using replicates to control the release of sample ensures that complete call procedures are followed for the entire sample. Calls were staggered over times of day and days of the week to maximize the chance of making contact with potential respondents. Each household received at least one daytime call in an attempt to find someone at home.

In each contacted household, interviewers asked to speak with the person who was previously interviewed based on their age and gender. Once the correct respondent was on the phone, interviewers verified their current religious affiliation as well as the childhood religious affiliation of converts to make sure they matched what was reported in the original survey. Respondents who did not confirm their previously reported religious affiliations were screened out as ineligible.
Sampling Procedures
New interviews were conducted with a sample of respondents who participated in the 2007 Religious Landscape Survey, which collected data from a representative group of more than 35,000 adults nationwide in the spring and summer of 2007. (The Landscape Survey dataset is available for download here). This callback sample was used to reinterview members of seven specific groups. Quotas were set for each of these groups so that there would be enough cases for analysis. The quotas and available sample are summarized below.
Principal Investigators
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Pew Research Center
Related Publications
"Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.," April 2009