Presbyterian Panel Survey, May 1994 -- Communications Issues

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > Religious Groups > Members or Leaders > Presbyterian > Summary


The 1994-1996 Presbyterian Panel Study consists of a background survey and twelve topical surveys administered over two years to the same panel of respondents. Each topical survey covers a different subject including: spirituality, communication, charitable giving and estate planning, volunteerism and other issues, the Bible, churchwide special offerings, social issues in investing, peacemaking, current issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), HIV/AIDS issues, evangelism, and theological education. The 5,478 member panel includes four representative samples from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): 1) members, 2) active elders, 3) pastors, and 4) clergy in non-pastoral ministries. A majority of the questions were identical for all groups sampled, but a small number of questions were varied for the lay and clerical samples. These distinctions are noted in the variable descriptions.

In order to aid analysis, the data are presented as both a merged file and as twelve individual files. The merged file (PP8) includes the background survey and all twelve topical surveys. The twelve individual files (PP8_####) each include the background survey and one topical survey.

Data File
Cases: 5,478
Variables: 1,277
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: Thirteen waves of the Presbyterian Panel, Series VIII; first wave, fall 1993; last wave, November 1996.
Funded By
Congregational Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Collection Procedures
Self-administered mail survey

POPULATIONS
Each of the four samples in the 1994-1996 Presbyterian Panel was drawn from a separate constituency group, or population, of Presbyterians. Given below is a description of how each population was identified.

Members
The member sample was drawn from the population of active members of congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (i.e., persons listed on the active membership rolls of these congregations-see the Book of Order, G-5.0202). However, elders on session, persons known by the congregation to be living more than 50 miles from their congregations, and persons unable to complete a mailed questionnaire were excluded. At the end of 1992 (the most recent available data at the time of sampling), the total active membership of the denomination was 2,780,406. Subtracting the 117,788 active (on session) elders, the approximate population for the member sample was 2,662,618.

Elders
The population of elders is defined as the subset of active members of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations who both have been ordained to the office of elder by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (or one of its predecessor denominations) and are currently serving on session of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation. (See Book of Order, G-6.0101 through G-6.0108, and G-6.0300.)

Pastors
The population of pastors is defined as those persons who are ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament; are members of one of the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and are serving as a pastor, co-pastor, assistant pastor, associate pastor, interim supply pastor, or interim associate pastor of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation (including union congregations, i.e., congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and one or more other denominations). Operationally, this definition includes ordained ministers with the following occupational codes: 101105; 11 1-1 15; 121-125; 131-135; 161; and 163. (See Book of Order, G-6.0201 through G-6.0202.)

Specialized Clergy
The population of clergy in specialized ministries is defined as those persons who are ordained as ministers of the Word and Sacrament; are members of one of the presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and were not (at the time of sampling) employed as a pastor (including assistant, associate, interim supply, or interim associate pastor) of a congregation affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Operationally, specialized clergy include (among others): denominational and governing body executives, tentmakers, chaplains, professional counselors, school faculty, and administrators.

Note: Emeritus pastors and other retired ministers were excluded in defining both the pastor and the specialized clergy populations.
Sampling Procedures
Four representative samples were drawn (one from each of the four populations above) in October 1993 using the following probability techniques.

Members
Lacking an exhaustive list of active members of all Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations, we implemented a two-stage sampling process, first sampling congregations, then members within each of them. Using proportional stratified sampling, 425 congregations were drawn from the list of 11,456 congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the end of 1992. Strata were determined by membership size, using increments of 50 (see Table B-1).

Then, for each sampled congregation, the mid-1993 membership was estimated using straight-line extrapolation from the 1987-1992 trend. With the estimated total membership as the maximum value, eight random numbers were generated for each sampled congregation. Each of these congregations was sent a detailed set of instructions for sampling the eight names. In brief, the sampling instructions asked each congregation to number, consecutively, the names of their total current active membership using a standard list (e.g., in alphabetical or zip code order), then to send the Panel the names, addresses, phone numbers, and other information (see below) for each person whose membership number corresponded to one of the eight random numbers generated for that congregation (see Note 1). The mailing to congregations also included a cover letter from the Panel administrator, and one from the Reverend David Dobler, Moderator of the General Assembly. The outside address label, and both letters, were personally addressed to a pastor for those congregations with a pastor; others were addressed to "Pastor/Clerk of Session."

The Panel provided a form for submitting the names of the eight sampled members, along with a postage-paid return envelope. We requested congregations to follow the instructions exactly, and to make no substitutions. Besides name, address, and phone number, we also asked congregations to provide other information about the sampled members, if known, and we told them that this information would be used to exclude certain individuals from the Panel. Characteristics that resulted in exclusion were: current active status as an elder (i.e., serving on session), currently living more than 50 miles from the congregation (unless a college student), and unable to complete and return a mailed questionnaire.

Responses were accepted into February 1994 (although most congregations responded by the end of November 1993). A total of 324 congregations submitted names, 12 refused, and 89 did not respond. A net total of 2,163 names met the individual sampling criteria, and were included in the sample of members (see Note 2).

Elders
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) keeps a list of elders currently on session. At present, the Office of Communications of the General Assembly Council oversees the maintenance of the list. A copy of this list was obtained, the names sorted by synods, and a random sample taken in each at a rate of approximately 1 in 64. The total resulting net sample numbered 1,847.

Pastors and Specialized Clergy
The denomination's list of all ordained ministers of the Word and Sacrament is maintained by the Office of the General Assembly. Using occupational codes (as detailed above), Panel staff divided the names on this list into three groups: (1) pastors, (2) specialized clergy, and (3) all other (i.e., retired/emeritus). Target sample sizes were 1,500 pastors and 925 specialized clergy, but both groups were oversampled to permit elimination of anyone who had served on Cycle 7 (1991-1993) of the Panel. The actual net sample sizes numbered 1,542 pastors and 913 specialized clergy.

Note 1: As an alternative, we offered congregations the option of sending the Panel a complete membership list, and letting us draw the sample. Only a small number (around 6) opted for this alternative.

Note 2: The totals for all samples are net results, since they omit the small number of individuals whose mailings were returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service, with no known forwarding address.

RESPONSE RATES
Response rates, by sample, were: members, 68%; elders, 73%; pastors, 84%; and specialized clergy, 75%. For each of the four samples, the response rate is below that achieved in the immediately-prior re-establishment (1990), but above that obtained in 1987 (see Table B-2).

MAILINGS TO INDIVIDUALS
Each sampled individual was mailed a large envelope (personally addressed) containing the following materials: a personally-addressed letter (with pre-printed signature) from the Reverend David Dobler, Moderator of the General Assembly; a personally-addressed letter (individually signed for all but the elders sample) from John P. Marcum, Panel Administrator; a sheet (printed on front and back) describing the Panel in question-and-answer format; a "token of appreciation" (a 3-1/2" diameter circular decal with the name "Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" and the church's official cross-and-flames symbol); a postage-paid, business-reply return envelope; and a copy of the questionnaire. (Overall design of materials followed the "Total Design Method" developed by Don A. Dillman. See Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978.)

Initial mailings to individuals in all samples began in October 1993 and were completed in early January 1994. All individuals received a reminder postcard from the Panel administrator one to two weeks after the initial mailing, and three weeks after that, a duplicate questionnaire with a new cover letter. Because they had the lowest response rates at the time, two samples-members and specialized clergy-were sent a third reminder packet, including another copy of the questionnaire.

INDEXES
The three belief indexes included in this data file (individualism, otherworldliness, and relativism) were constructed in the following manner. Each question included as part of an index had five possible responses: strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree. We assigned numbers to the individual responses (ranging from 1 to 5), summed the numbers across the questions, and then obtained an average score by dividing the resulting figure by the number of questions comprising the index. The resulting averages range from 1 to 5 and, for convenience in displaying results, have been aggregated into high (3.5 to 5.0), medium (2.5 to 3.4), and low (1.0 to 2.4) categories.

Indexes for Members
Individualism
Variable: INDIV
Index constructed from the following variables:
BELIEF9 - Strongly agree = 5
BELIEF10 - Strongly agree = 5
BELIEF11 - Strongly agree = 5
BELIEF12 - Strongly agree = 1
BELIEF13 - Strongly agree = 1

Otherworldliness
Variable: OTRWLD
Index constructed from the following variables:
BELIEF6 - Strongly agree = 5
BELIEF7 - Strongly agree = 1
BELIEF8 - Strongly agree = 5

Relativism
Variable: RLTVSM
Index constructed from the following variables:
BELIEF1 - Strongly agree = 5
BELIEF2 - Strongly agree = 1
BELIEF3 - Strongly agree = 1
BELIEF4 - Strongly agree = 5
BELIEF5 - Strongly agree = 1

Indexes for Clergy
Individualism
Variable: INDVDL
Index constructed from the following variables:
RELGN_9 - Strongly agree = 5
RELGN_10 - Strongly agree = 5
RELGN_11 - Strongly agree = 5
RELGN_12 - Strongly agree = 1
RELGN_13 - Strongly agree = 1

Otherworldliness
Variable: OTHWRLD
Index constructed from the following variables:
RELGN_6 - Strongly agree = 5
RELGN_7 - Strongly agree = 1
RELGN_8 - Strongly agree = 5

Relativism
Variable: RELATVSM
Index constructed from the following variables:
RELGN_1 - Strongly agree = 5
RELGN_2 - Strongly agree = 1
RELGN_3 - Strongly agree = 1
RELGN_4 - Strongly agree = 5
RELGN_5 - Strongly agree = 1
Principal Investigators
Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and John P. Marcum, Panel Administrator
Related Publications
Background Report for the 1994-1996 Panel. 1994. Louisville, KY: Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Each wave's findings are published in a four-page summary and a longer report. Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).